5 Disgraced Football Players Accused Of Killing People

Inside the crimes connected to professional, college and high school football players.

December 16, 2021
In this handout image provided by the NFL,  Phillip Adams of the San Francisco 49ers poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images

Phillip Adams of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo by: NFL via Getty Images

NFL via Getty Images

Phillip Adams of the San Francisco 49ers

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Ex-NFL player Phillip Adams had a severe form of brain disease when he killed six people and himself.

On April 7, 2021, former NFL cornerback Phillip Adams, 32, shot himself in the head after murdering physician Robert Leslie, 70, his wife, Barbara, 69, and the couple’s grandchildren, Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5. He also fatally shot two HVAC technicians who were working at the victims’ home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, at the time of the shooting, James Lewis and Robert Shook, both 38.

An autopsy found Adams had severe Stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease, in both his frontal lobes, ESPN reported. Symptoms of CTE include rage, violent mood swings and poor impulse control, and the disease has been found in multiple football players who have suffered concussions and other head trauma.

“There were inklings that he was developing clear behavioral and cognitive issues,'” said Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University who examined Adams’ brain. “I don't think he snapped. It appeared to be a cumulative progressive impairment. He was getting increasingly paranoid, he was having increasing difficulties with his memory, and he was very likely having more and more impulsive behaviors.”

A Raiders football player faces decades behind bars following a suspected DUI crash that killed another driver, authorities say.

Former Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III reached speeds of over 150 m.p.h. and allegedly was driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent — twice Nevada’s legal limit — when he slammed his 2020 Corvette into a Rav4 SUV in Las Vegas, killing its driver, 23-year-old Tina Tintor, prosecutors said. The football player’s girlfriend, YouTube vlogger Rudy Washington, also suffered severe injuries in the deadly crash.

Ruggs, who was released from his NFL team hours after the incident, faces felony counts of DUI resulting in death, DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm, and two counts of reckless driving resulting in death or substantial bodily harm.

Autopsy results released Dec. 14 and obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal showed Tintor, who was trapped in the fiery wreckage, died from thermal injuries, and other conditions contributing to her death included inhalation of the products of combustion, fractures of the nasal bones, right-sided ribs and left forearm, and a left hemothorax. Her death was ruled an accident.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Tintor’s family is “torn apart,” The Sun reported. “This was a terrible, terrible collision, so they’re mourning their loss. They’re grieving. They’re mad.”

Ruggs posted bail and is currently on house arrest pending the outcome of the case. He faces up to 40 years behind bars if found guilty of the DUI counts, according to the Review-Journal.

A Carolina Panthers player conspired to kill his pregnant girlfriend in a drive-by shooting so he could avoid paying child support.

In October 2018, former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was released from prison in North Carolina after serving nearly 19 years for orchestrating the death of his girlfriend, Cherica Adams.

On Nov. 16, 1999, Adams, 24, was following behind Carruth’s vehicle in Charlotte when he slowed down. A car drove up beside Adams and an assailant shot the eight-months-pregnant woman multiple times, according to WCNC-TV. Adams managed to call 911 and tell a dispatcher what happened before she fell into a coma. She passed away from her injuries the following month, but doctors were able to save the life of Chancellor Lee Adams, her son with Carruth.

The NFL player fled the state after the shooting and was captured a short time later in Tennessee. At trial, prosecutors alleged Carruth hired a hit man, Van Brett Watkins, to kill Adams, and a second accomplice testified the football player ordered the hit because he didn’t want to pay child support for his baby.

In 2001, Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, using an instrument with intent to destroy an unborn child, and discharging a firearm into occupied property.

Florida prosecutors charge a former college football player for the 2006 cold case shooting death of his teammate.

Police arrested former University of Miami football player Rashaun Jones, 35, on Aug. 19 in Ocala, Florida, and charged him with the cold case murder of his teammate 15 years ago.

On Nov. 7, 2006, Bryan Sidney Pata, 22, was found fatally shot in the head in the parking lot of a Miami apartment complex. According to the state attorney’s office, “Pata was much larger physically than Jones and it was learned that allegedly Pata had previously beaten Jones during a physical altercation.”

About two months before the homicide, prosecutors claimed, “Pata had told his brother Edwin that Jones had allegedly threatened to shoot him in the head.” The defensive lineman’s brother pleaded with him to report the incident, but Pata refused, and he was later found dead of a gunshot wound.

At the time, Jones told investigators he never left his home the day of the shooting. The district attorney claimed, however, that cell phone records and an eyewitness allegedly placed him near the scene of the crime.

Jones has pleaded not guilty to charges he killed Pata.

A teenage football player was convicted of murdering his high school sweetheart after their breakup.

On Nov. 21, 2016, Emma Walker was found dead in bed at her home in Knoxville, Tennessee. An officer responding to the scene found someone had fired two bullets through her bedroom wall from outside, one striking her pillow and the other the 16-year-old cheerleader’s head.

Suspicion quickly fell on now-19-year-old Riley Gaul, her on-off boyfriend who had played football at their high school before graduating and playing on a college team. Friends and family said over the course of the teenagers’ tumultuous two-year relationship, Gaul increasingly grew more and more possessive and controlling until Walker finally had enough and split with him in late 2016.

“She just came to the realization that she deserved better,” Keegan Lyle said of her friend, according to ABC News. “Then we're all like, ‘yes finally, it's happening.’ We're like, ‘What we've been waiting for.’”

According to reports, Gaul didn’t react to the news well and tried to get his ex-girlfriend’s attention with bizarre stunts, such as pretending he was the victim of a kidnapping.

Weeks after the breakup, Walker was dead.

“When I first met [Gaul], I thought he might've been a grieving boyfriend,’ Det. James Hurst told 20/20. “When we got into the interview room and sat down, I felt like there was a dark side. He didn't have a whole lot of passion or concern.”

In May 2018, Gaul was convicted of first-degree murder, stalking, theft, reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence and possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony. He was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole after serving 51 years.

“I wanted to scare her... I never meant to take Emma's life,” Gaul insisted at his sentencing hearing.

In small towns across the country, from the Texas Panhandle to rural Pennsylvania, high school football is what ties these community together. But that Friday night dream world can be surprisingly fragile. When a heinous murder shatters that dream, the aftershocks extend far beyond the victim's immediate family to ravage an entire community.

Premiering Jan. 4 at at 10/9c, Investigation Discovery's new six-part series "Murder Under the Friday Night Lights" delves into violent crimes surrounding local high school football teams across America. From the football captain who targets his own team's cheerleaders, to the local football star gunned down by a jealous peer, these are stories of teenage dreams that turn into nightmares.