As former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth remained jailed in Tennessee today awaiting extradition to North Carolina on a charge of first-degree murder, law enforcement officials were assembling a case that will attempt to prove he planned last month's murder of his pregnant girlfriend with the help of at least two accomplices.
Stanley Drew Abraham, 19, who was riding in the front passenger's seat of the car from which four shots were fired on Nov. 16 that killed Cherica Adams, 24, has provided police with several statements that have aided their investigation, according to law enforcement sources. Adams was driving her black BMW on a south Charlotte street when another car, in which Abraham and two other men were riding, pulled alongside Adams and fired four shots from a revolver.
"Investigators talked to Abraham several times prior to his being charged," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokesman Keith Bridges said. "We interviewed him extensively."
Jim Gronquist, one of Abraham's court-appointed attorneys, said at a bail hearing in Superior Court here this week that his client had nothing to do with the crime. Abraham has told homicide investigators that he thought he was going to Carruth's home on the night of the shooting to meet and socialize with the professional football player, according to sources.
Gronquist said prosecutors may have charged his client and opposed bail in order to keep pressure on him to testify for the state in a trial against Carruth and his alleged co-conspirators.
"That may be the screw they are turning," Gronquist said after Abraham, who has no prior criminal record, was denied bail.
Assistant District Attorney Gentry Caudill said at the bail hearing that Abraham "aided and abetted" the crime.
Bridges said homicide investigators also have talked to Michael Eugene Kennedy, 24, who police believe was driving the vehicle from which the shots were fired.
Bridges said neither William Edward Watkins, 44, who police believe fired the shots that killed Adams, nor Carruth has spoken with investigators. All four men have been charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and firing into an occupied vehicle. Watkins, Kennedy and Carruth were arrested Thanksgiving day, and Abraham was arrested about a week later.
Prosecutors will try to prove that Carruth conspired with Kennedy and Watkins for months and had offered to pay them to kill Adams, whose son was delivered prematurely following the shooting.
Records showing calls from Carruth's cell phone, which he had with him the night of the shooting, led police to Kennedy and then to Watkins, law enforcement sources said. Prosecutors will try to show that Carruth was in his car on his cell phone when he spoke to his accomplices the night of the shooting, sources said.
Attorneys for Carruth and Kennedy did not return telephone messages left at their offices today. Watkins's attorney, Jean Lawson, said Thursday that she would have no comment on the case.
As of today, Carruth was in a Tennessee jail awaiting extradition, and Watkins, Kennedy and Abraham were in Mecklenburg County Jail. Carruth told a Tennessee judge on Thursday that he will not fight extradition, and U.S. marshals have 10 days to take him to North Carolina. It likely will be Saturday afternoon at the earliest before Carruth is transported back to North Carolina, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Capt. Sean Mulhall said.
FBI agents found Carruth in the trunk of a car in the parking lot of a Wildersville, Tenn., motel on Wednesday night after receiving a tip from Ronnie DeLapp, a Charlotte bail bondsman who held Carruth's $3 million bond.
Carruth had been released on the bond, which required him to surrender if Adams died. Instead, he fled.
Adams's funeral was scheduled for Saturday.
Carruth, who earned $38,000 a week with the Panthers, was released by the team and suspended indefinitely from the NFL by league Commissioner Paul Tagliabue this week.