NFL Star Had Girlfriend Killed. 17 Years Later, He Speaks

Rae Carruth breaks his silence, expresses desire to have custody of his son
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2018 8:08 AM CST
Updated Feb 24, 2018 5:30 PM CST
NFL Star Had Girlfriend Killed. 17 Years Later, He Speaks
This Jan. 3, 2001, file photo shows former Carolina Panthers football player Rae Carruth sitting at the defense table during his trial in Charlotte, NC.   (AP Photo/Jeff Siner, Pool, File)

He was a star Carolina Panthers wide-receiver who was found hiding in the trunk of a car in a Tennessee hotel parking lot in December 1999 and arrested for having a hit put on his 7-months-pregnant girlfriend. Cherica Adams, 24, died nearly a month after being struck by four bullets while driving; police said Rae Carruth didn't want to pay child support and was angered Adams wouldn't get an abortion. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder among other charges. Now, after some 17 years in prison and with an impending Oct. 22 release date, Carruth, 44, is speaking out about that child—who survived.

  • The interview: WBTV, which received a 15-page handwritten open letter to Adams' mother from Carruth and then interviewed him by phone, points out what a rarity these words are: He didn't testify on his behalf, and has previously granted only one interview, in 2001 to CNN.

  • His relationship with Adams: WBTV notes that in the letter Carruth characterizes himself not as having been in a relationship with Adams but as having just "hooked-up" with her. (He has made this claim before.) He said he did press her to get an abortion but dropped it when she demurred. He doesn't discuss the events of Nov. 16, 1999.
  • The others: ESPN reports Carruth received an 18- to 24-year sentence. Van Brett Watkins, who served as the shooter, was handed a minimum of 40 years. Michael Kennedy drove the car and has been out since 2011. Stanley Abraham was in the car and has also completed his sentence.
  • The apology: "I'm apologizing for the loss of her daughter. I'm apologizing for the impairment of my son. I feel responsible for everything that happened. And I just want her to know that truly I am sorry for everything. ... Ms. Adams, I apologize, Ms. Adams, I take responsibility for what happened."
  • His son: Chancellor Lee Adams, now 18, was born with cerebral palsy and is being raised by his maternal grandmother, Saundra Adams. Carruth has only met him twice, years ago, but was encouraged by comments Saundra Adams has made about being at the prison with Chancellor on the day Carruth is released. He wants much more: To ultimately gain custody of his son, who requires care.
  • Specifically: The Washington Post quotes his letter as saying, "I mean come on, Ms. Adams, the reality is you aren't going to be around forever. 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."

  • Shutting that door: In a response to the Charlotte Observer, Saundra Adams was receptive to Carruth's apology but not his offer. "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."
  • Tough words: Carruth had some harsh words for Saundra Adams, too, accusing her in the letter of lying. CBS Sports flags this excerpt: "Ms. Adams, the story of how you lost your daughter; how Chancellor came into this world; and the way that he has gone on to endure, thrive, and over achieve with you by his side is so heart wrenching and inspiring on its own, that there isn't any need for embellishment or lies. And yet you've made a habit out of doing so in every interview that you've given."
  • Deep reading: Sports Illustrated took a deep dive into the story in a 2012 article titled, "The Boy They Couldn't Kill: How Rae Carruth's son survived and thrives." It details, among other things, Carruth's thorny relationship with pregnant women before he met Cherica Adams.
(More NFL stories.)

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