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Bizarre Underwood Saga Turn

A young man found dead last week in a cooler in a Michigan State dorm basement attended the same church as Dimitrius Underwood, the NFL player who slashed his own neck after repeatedly yelling, "I'm not worthy of God."

Detectives who spoke this week to friends of Neftali Valdez Greene Jr. found that the 23-year-old had attended Immanuel's Temple Community Church in Lansing for about a year, said Capt. Tony Kleibecker, spokesman for Michigan State University police.

Underwood's mother, an ordained minister, earlier this week said the church her son attended was a "cult that's posing as a church."

The Rev. Phillip Owens of Immanuel's Temple said Underwood had attended his church on and off for about a year. He denied the cult accusation.

On Friday, Owens refused to discuss Greene's affiliation with his church. It was not immediately clear if Underwood knew Greene.

"There is no obligation on our side to say anything until I find out what's going on," he said.

Underwood, a 22-year-old former Michigan State defensive end who has wavered between football and his religion in his brief NFL career, was found Sunday severely bleeding on a Lansing street after slashing his neck.

He was released from Sparrow Hospital on Thursday and was taken to an inpatient mental health clinic, which was not identified.

Underwood, in a statement released through his agent, said Friday he has drawn strength from his family and faith.

"I am looking forwward to returning to the Miami Dolphins," he said. "I am getting help and looking forward to a full and rapid recovery."

A Lansing police report said Underwood repeatedly yelled "I'm not worthy of God" before he used two steak knives to cut his throat at the Lansing home of his girlfriend and their 17-month-old twins.

Underwood was saying, "You are Satan and you're going to hell" and "I want to be saved, I want to meet God," when officers arrived, the police report said.

Underwood was a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings. He left the team without explanation a day after signing a five-year, $5.3 million contract, saying later that he was torn between his faith in God and his football career.

The Dolphins picked up Underwood on waivers in August. He came to Lansing last weekend to visit his family and had spent several hours in the Ingham County Jail Saturday night on a warrant accusing him of nonpayment of child support.

Greene was found Sept. 22 in a 5-foot-long cooler in a dorm basement storage room.

Kleibecker said police think Greene got into the cooler on his own, then could not get out when the door clsed and locked behind him. But they are continuing their investigation and hope to know more when toxicology reports are in.

"There's still a remote possibility it was a suicide," Kleibecker said. But police think it's more likely the former Michigan State student was trying to find a place to stay, although they could not explain why he chose the cramped, unused cooler.

Calls to Greene's parents' home were not returned.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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