Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panthers star who was convicted in connection with the 1999 drive-by shooting death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, will be released from a North Carolina prison Oct. 22.
The shooting of Cherica Adams on Nov. 16, 1999, was shocking both in its brutality and its connection to a budding NFL star. Adams, 24, was seven months pregnant with Carruth’s son and was driving her BMW in Charlotte when she was shot four times by someone hired by Carruth. The wide receiver, a first-round draft pick by the Panthers in 1997, was arrested in November 1999 on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder, plus other charges. When Adams, a real estate agent he had casually dated, died a month after the shooting, Carruth fled and was arrested when FBI agents found him hiding in the trunk of a car in the parking lot of a Best Western hotel. He and three others were charged with murder.
Carruth was sentenced to 18-to-24 years in prison after his January 2001 conviction for conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder.
Last winter, Carruth wrote an open letter addressing Adams’s mother, and gave an interview in which he said he hopes to establish a relationship with his son. In the letter, he thanked Saundra Adams for giving Chancellor Lee Adams, whom he called a “miracle child,” her “unconditional care, compassion, love and support.” The boy, who will turn 19 next month, was delivered by emergency Caesarean section after the shooting.
Carruth told WBTV that he had let his son down “as he came into this world and the only way that I can make that right and the only way I can reconcile my relationship with my son is to be there for him.”
Saundra Adams has indicated in the past that she plans to be waiting with Chancellor at the minimum-security Sampson Correctional Facility in Clinton, N.C., when Carruth, now 44, is released and is willing to consider having him be part of their lives. But “I don’t see Rae Carruth having custody of Chancellor Lee Adams ever,” she has said. “I’m not concerned about him getting custody of Chancellor.”
In the handwritten open letter, Carruth expressed awareness that he is a “social pariah” and said he hoped to “openly confront and debunk the lies that Ms. Adams continues to tell about me, knowing full well that in doing so it will only add to the public ire against me.”
However, in a different letter to the Charlotte Observer in March, Carruth said he would not seek custody of Chancellor, who lives with Saundra Adams in Charlotte. He said he hopes to “try to be the father that I should have been from day one,” but had decided to “no longer be pursuing a relationship with Chancellor and Ms. Adams. I promise to leave them be, which I now see is in everyone’s best interest.”
In that second letter, he wrote that public memories of the shooting remain fresh. “I now understand that any notions of me one day being welcome to Sunday dinner is totally out of the question. And lastly, I didn’t foresee the media and general public being unanimous in its belief that I shouldn’t be allowed to ever have anything to do with Chancellor.”
When Cherica Adams became pregnant in 1999, Carruth urged her to have an abortion, according to her mother, because he had a son who was born while he was at the University of Colorado. Cherica disagreed and her mother said the two broke up. Carruth asked her out to see the movie “The Bone Collector,” about a serial killer, and they drove to the theater in separate cars that night in November, 1999. She was following him when he suddenly pulled over and stopped. She did the same and another car pulled up alongside her BMW. Van Brett Watkins fired five shots into the car before the driver of his car sped off. Four bullets struck Cherica Adams and, although none struck her baby, her massive blood loss endangered him.
Her 911 call was haunting.
Cherica: “I was following my baby’s daddy, Rae Carruth, the football player.”
Dispatcher: “So you think he did it?”
Cherica: “He slowed down and a car pulled up beside me.”
Dispatcher: “And then shot at you?”
Dispatcher: “... And then, where’d he go?”
Cherica: “He just left. I think he did it. I don’t know what to think.”
After a nationally televised trial, Carruth was sentenced to at least 18 years and 11 months in prison. Three other men were sentenced for the crime, with Watkins, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, testifying that Carruth had hired him.
In the years since, Carruth has unsuccessfully appealed his sentence. According to reports, he may move to California, where he grew up.
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