Rae Carruth has been incarcerated since 2001. (Chuck Burton/Associated Press)

Former Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth is eligible for parole in October, and at some point after that, he wants to take custody of his 18-year-old son. That young man requires special care because he has mental and physical challenges, the result of being a seven-month-old fetus when Carruth arranged to have his mother shot to death in 1999.

Carruth, a former first-round pick by Carolina, was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison in 2001, and he has remained nearly silent about that episode, including at his trial, when he did not take the stand. Now 44, he broke that silence Monday, sending a letter to a Charlotte TV station and subsequently telling it in an interview from prison that he was apologetic for the death of Cherica Adams.

Carruth directed his apology to Adams’s mother, who has taken care of his son since he was delivered by emergency Caesarean section, with Adams dying several weeks after being shot four times while in her car. For her part, Saundra Adams said Monday that while she wants Carruth to have a role in her grandson’s life, the ex-NFL player will never have custody.

“I’m apologizing for the loss of her daughter. I’m apologizing for the impairment of my son,” Carruth said of Saundra Adams to WBTV. “I feel responsible for everything that happened. And I just want her to know that truly I am sorry for everything.”

Carruth, though, said in the interview and his 15-page letter that he was making his thoughts public to rebut the “lies” he claimed Adams has made about his state of contrition and the nature of his past relationship with herself and her daughter. “If I say publicly, ‘Ms. Adams, I apologize; Ms. Adams, I take responsibility for what happened,’ that she can no longer get on television and do an interview and say Rae has never apologized to me,” Carruth told the station.

In his letter, Carruth told Adams, “For too long, you’ve used my silence against me, and for once I feel the need to speak to finally speak up for myself and hopefully put an end to this.” He also thanked the 60-year-old for the “unconditional care, compassion, love and support” she had given his son, Chancellor Lee Adams.

“I mean come on, Ms. Adams, the reality is you aren’t going to be around forever,” Carruth wrote. “At some point someone else will have to be responsible for Chancellor’s care. … I would like to be in a position to be seriously considered as a viable option.”

“I’ve forgiven Rae already, but to have any type of relationship with him, there does have to be some repentance,” Saundra Adams told the Charlotte Observer. “And I think this opens the door. But I can say definitively he’s not ever going to have custody of Chancellor. Chancellor will be raised either by me or, after I’m gone, by someone else who loves him and who knows him.

“He will never be raised by a stranger — someone he doesn’t know and who tried to kill him.”

Carruth was acquitted of first-degree murder but convicted of three other felonies, including conspiracy to commit murder, while two other men also went to prison for pulling the trigger and driving a getaway car, respectively. Adams called 911 after being shot, and the recording of her account of having gone to see a movie with Carruth before following his car home, only to have him stop unexpectedly, allowing the shooter’s car to pull up alongside her, was a major factor in his conviction.

“If I could change anything, I’d change the whole situation,” Carruth said in the interview. “His mother would still be here and I wouldn’t be where I’m at. So that’s what I’d want to change. I want the incident to never have happened at all.”

Of his desire to eventually gain custody of his son, Carruth said, “I let him down as he came into this world, and the only way that I can make that right and the only way I can work out my relationship with my son is to be there for him.”

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