NFL Pro Walks Free After Spending 18 Years In Prison For Pregnant Girlfriend’s Murder

Ex-Carolina Panther Rae Carruth hopes to be involved in their now-adult son's life.

October 22, 2018
Rae Carruth [North Carolina Dept of Public Safety]

Rae Carruth [North Carolina Dept of Public Safety]

Rae Carruth [North Carolina Dept of Public Safety]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

CLINTON, NC — Ex-NFL player Rae Carruth has been set free after serving over 18 years behind bars for orchestrating the murder of his eight-months-pregnant girlfriend.

Carruth, once a wide receiver who had a four-year, $3.7 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, left Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton on Monday, October 22.

“I’m excited about just being out of here. I’m nervous just about how I’ll be received by the public,” Carruth, now 44, told WSOC-TV shortly before his release. “I still have to work. I still have to live. I have to exist out there and it just seems like there is so much hate and negativity toward me.”

On November 16, 1999, Cherica Adams called 911 after she was shot four times while driving down a road in Charlotte. Before falling into a coma, she managed to tell the emergency dispatcher her boyfriend Carruth was driving in front of her and had slowed his vehicle down before gunfire rang out.

“I feel certain he thought we would never solve that case,” Detective Darrell Price later said of the murder-for-hire scheme.

Carruth's former teammates were shocked at the news. "It would be like finding out the guy sitting in the cubicle next to you at work was arrested for murder," said Panthers receiver Frank Garcia. "You just don't always know people as well as you think you do."

Adams succumbed to her injuries four weeks later. Before she died, doctors were able to deliver the couple’s son, Chancellor Lee, who will turn 19 in November. He suffers from cerebral palsy and brain damage as a result of the shooting.

During his trial, Carruth denied he was involved in Adams’ murder, but the shooter he hired, Van Brett Watkins, revealed the fallen football star's motive: He wanted the victim dead so he could avoid paying her child support. Watkins also testified how Adams “was screaming,” after she got shot. “She was drowning in her own blood,” he said. “You could hear a gurgling sound.”

In 2001, a jury found Carruth guilty of conspiracy to kill his girlfriend and he was sentenced to anywhere from 18 to 24 years in prison. However, jurors failed to convict him on the more serious charge of murder.

“I guess the question is, who's the more culpable? The mastermind behind the whole thing or the shooter?” asked prosecutor Gentry Caudill. “Take Rae Carruth out of the picture and Cherica Adams is alive today.”

Carruth recently reached out to his late girlfriend’s mom, Saundra Adams, in a long letter and asked her forgiveness for the “senseless act” he helped commit, and he told her he hoped to be involved in his son’s life.

“I’ve forgiven Rae already, but to have any type of relationship with him, there does have to be some repentance,” the grandmother said. “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,” she added. “He will never be raised by a stranger — someone he doesn’t know and who tried to kill him.”

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