Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth told a federal magistrate in Tennessee today that he will not fight extradition to North Carolina to face a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the Nov. 16 shooting of his pregnant girlfriend.
Meanwhile, prosecutors indicated they intend to treat the slaying as a capital offense, which is punishable by death in North Carolina. In another development, the Panthers announced that they had waived Carruth, severing ties with a player they had made a first-round pick in the 1997 NFL draft. Carruth had been excused from the team since Nov. 25.
Also today, the NFL announced it had suspended Carruth indefinitely.
Carruth, 25, is the first active NFL player to be charged with murder, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Panthers said their decision to cut him was directly related to him fleeing from Charlotte after Cherica Adams died Tuesday.
Carruth had been free on a $3 million bond, the terms of which required him to surrender immediately if Adams died.
"Obviously this has to do with what has taken place in the last 48 hours," Panthers Coach George Seifert said. "We are not trying to demonstrate guilt or innocence or anything else. It is just our reaction to what has taken place."
FBI agents found Carruth, 25, at about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, hiding in a car trunk in the parking lot of a motel in Wildersville, Tenn., about 500 miles west of Charlotte, where the football player apparently fled with a female companion.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Carruth's mother, Theodry, supplied the tip that led authorities to her son.
During a brief hearing today at U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn., he told Judge James Todd, "I'm going to voluntarily go back." Carruth then was turned over to U.S. marshals.
Prosecutors say they believe Carruth masterminded a conspiracy over a period of months with three other men that resulted in the death of Adams, who was shot four times while driving her car here, according to sources. Her child was born 10 weeks premature and is in fair condition.
At Mecklenburg County Superior Court, two judges denied bail for Stanley Abraham, 19; Michael E. Kennedy, 24; and William E. Watkins, 44. All four men have been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and firing a gun into an occupied vehicle.
Abraham's attorneys said at the hearing that Abraham, who has no prior arrests, was not an accomplice to the shooting or the conspiracy. He has told police that he was a friend of Kennedy's and was expecting to go out on the town and socialize that night, according to sources.
"He was at the wrong place at the wrong time," said James Gronquist, one of Abraham's court-appointed attorneys.
But Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney Gentry Caudill told the court here that Abraham "aided and abetted" the crime and should not be released on bond. Caudill also indicated that prosecutors may seek the death penalty.
"We anticipate aggravated circumstances exist and a Rule 24 hearing will be held," said Caudill. A Rule 24 hearing is required by North Carolina law to determine if prosecutors believe "aggravated circumstances" existed in the commission of the crime and would therefore warrant the death penalty. A heinous, atrocious, cruel crime, or one for pecuniary gain, would warrant the death penalty, according to Norman Butler, who along with Gronquist is representing Abraham.
Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston granted Caudill's request and denied bond.
Police are building a case that will attempt to place Abraham in the front passenger's seat in a vehicle driven by Kennedy. Based on evidence and statements taken from Abraham and others, sources said that police will try to show that Watkins was in the back seat of the car and fired four shots from a revolver that had pulled alongside Adams as she drove her black BMW along a south Charlotte street.
In front of her was Carruth, who had stopped his Ford Expedition, forcing Adams to pull to a stop as well, according to sources.
Watkins's lawyer, Jean Lawson, declined to comment.
After she was shot in the upper body, Adams, who worked at a Charlotte area financial institution, drove her car onto the front lawn of a residence and was able to remain conscious long enough to give police information that led them to Carruth. Law enforcement sources said the evidence in the case includes records of Carruth's cellular phone calls, which led police to question Kennedy and Watkins.
Carruth was talking on his cell phone to them from his car on the night of Adams's murder, sources said.
Police arrested Carruth at 6:30 a.m. Thanksgiving day at his home in south Charlotte. Watkins and Kennedy were arrested the same day. Abraham was arrested about a week later.
Prosecutors will attempt to prove that Carruth's motive centered on the unborn child that Adams was carrying at the time and that he recruited Kennedy and Watkins to kill her. Sources said police have evidence that Carruth met Kennedy at a car-parts distributorship within the past year and that Watkins had performed household errands for the football star.
Carruth's attorney, George Loughran, did not return phone calls today. Neither did James Exum, attorney for Kennedy.
Abraham, Watkins and Kennedy appeared in District Court here this morning on the murder charge. They will be arraigned at a later date. Caudill said his office will go to a grand jury in January and seek indictment on the murder charge, which was added this week when Adams died.
Police did not release the name of the woman who was in Tennessee with Carruth, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokesman Keith Bridges did not rule out an arrest.
"We will look into that," said Bridges. "I doubt he climbed in the trunk by himself."
CAPTION: Rae Carruth, waived by Panthers yesterday, is escorted to car after being questioned by FBI in Jackson, Tenn.
CAPTION: Theodry Carruth, mother of former Panthers player Rae Carruth, arrives at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport from Sacramento Wednesday night.