Arthur E. Phillips, a former instructional aide at Conestoga High School, was found dead in his prison cell earlier this week, two months after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage student at the Chester County school, officials said Tuesday.

Shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday, employees at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford found the 68-year-old Wayne man unresponsive in his cell, according to a release issued by prison superintendent Cynthia Link. After lifesaving measures were unsuccessful, a physician pronounced Phillips dead at 3:20.

The official cause of death had not been determined Tuesday morning, pending an autopsy and a Pennsylvania State Police investigation, which is normal procedure for an inmate death, is underway, Link said.

Phillips was serving a 10- to 20-year sentence at the Collegeville prison after pleading guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in November.

Arthur E. Phillips, a former aide at Conestoga High School, was charged in April and May with sexual assault of a student.
Chester County authorities
Arthur E. Phillips, a former aide at Conestoga High School, was charged in April and May with sexual assault of a student.

In April, Phillips was charged with more than 100 counts, including institutional sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault without consent, aggravated indecent assault against a victim under age 16, and other offenses related to repeated sexual assaults on an underage student. 

Phillips had worked at the Tredffyrin high school since 2006. In 2016, police said, Phillips met the student. From January to April 2017, police said, Phillips sexually assaulted the girl, who was not yet 16 when the assaults began. On the phones of Phillips and the girl, police found hundreds of sexual texts and some photos.

Phillips crashed his car after the incidents became public. In the vehicle, police said, they found a note that read, "I was just a guy trying to help a kid and boundaries just got gray."

"We cannot adequately express our shock and dismay upon learning an adult responsible for the care of our students has been charged with such a deplorable act," Tredyffrin/Easttown School District administrators wrote in a letter to the school community in April. They said they had no evidence any other students had been assaulted by Phillips, who worked in the school's television production studio.

But in June, the parents of the female student filed a lawsuit alleging that school district officials knew of  the "parade of improper conduct" by Phillips and did nothing to stop it.

According to the lawsuit, Phillips took the girl off campus during the school day, writing her hall passes and causing her to miss about 20 English classes over three months. Other teachers knew of the relationship, the suit said, and one even went on a "double date" with Phillips and the student.

School district officials have maintained these allegations are false and they did not know of the assaults until April, when they promptly notified police.