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Profile of Rae Carruth

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Rae Carruth
Erik Perel/Stringer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

His Early Years:

Rae Carruth was born in January 1974, in Sacramento, California. As a child and into his teens, he seemed to have a focus; he wanted to be a professional football player. He was an high school All-American and popular with his classmates. His popularity with his fellow classmates was good. Academically he struggled, but eventually he won a sports scholarship to college.

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His Football Career:

He was recruited as a wide receiver at the University of Colorado in 1992. While there, he maintained his point average and had no disciplinary issues. In 1997, the Carolina Panthers selected Carruth in their first-round draft pick. At age 23, he signed a four-year contract for $3.7 million as a starting wide receiver. In 1998, with just one season under his belt, he broke his foot. In 1999, he sprained his ankle, and there were rumors that he was becoming a liability to the Panthers.

His Lifestyle:

Rae Carruth dated many women. Financially, his commitments began to surpass his monthly income. He lost a paternity suit in 1997 and was committed to child support payments of $3,500 a month. He also made bad investments. Money was getting tight and with his injuries, his future concerned him. It was during this time that he learned 24-year old Cherica Adams was pregnant with his child. Their relationship was described as casual and Carruth never stopped dating other women.

Cherica Adams:

Cherica Adams grew up in Kings Mountain, North Carolina eventually relocating to Charlotte. There she attended college for two years then became an exotic dancer. She met Carruth and the two began dating casually. When she became pregnant, Carruth asked her to have an abortion, but she refused. Her family said she was excited about having a baby, choosing the name Chancellor for her unborn son. She told friends, that after Carruth hurt his ankle, he became distant.

The Crime:

On Nov. 15, 1999, Adams and Carruth met for a date. This was only their second date since Adams informed Carruth of her pregnancy. They attended a 9:45 p.m. movie at the Regal Cinema in South Charlotte. When the movie was over, they left in separate cars and Adams followed behind Carruth. Within minutes of leaving the cinema, a car drove up along side Adams and one of the occupants began firing his gun directly at her. She was struck with four bullets into her back, damaging vital organs.

The 911 Call:

Struggling in pain, Cherica dialed 9-1-1. She told the dispatcher what happened and that she felt Carruth was involved in the shootings. With tears from pain, she explained that she was seven months pregnant with Carruth’s child. By the time police arrived, no suspects were to be found and Adams was rushed to the Carolina’s Medical Center. She went into surgery immediately and the doctors were able to save her baby boy, Chancellor Lee, even though he was 10-weeks premature.

Dying Declaration:

Adams was hanging onto life and somehow found the strength to write out notes based on her recollection of the events that took place during the shooting. In those notes, she indicated that Carruth had blocked her car so she could not escape the deadly bullets. She wrote that Carruth was there during the attack. Based on her notes and other evidence, the police arrested Carruth for conspiring to commit first-degree murder, attempted murder, and shooting into an occupied vehicle.

The Charges Change to Murder:

Also arrested for involvement in the crime was Van Brett Watkins, a habitual criminal; Michael Kennedy, who was believed to be the driver of the car; and Stanley Abraham, who was in the passenger seat of the car during the shootings. Carruth was the only one of the four who posted a $3 million bond with the agreement that if Adams or the baby died he would turn himself back in to the police. On December 14, Adams died from of her injuries. The charges against the four changed to murder.

Carruth Takes Off:

When Carruth found out that Adams died, he decided to flee instead of turning himself in, as promised. FBI agents found him in the trunk of a friend's car in Wildersville, TN. and placed him back into custody. Up to this point, the Panthers had Carruth on paid leave, but once he became a fugitive, they severed all ties with him.

The Trial:

The trial took 27 days with testimony from 72 witnesses.

The prosecutors argued that Carruth was the one who arranged to have Adams killed because he did not want to pay child support.

The defense argued that the shooting was a result of a drug deal that Carruth was supposed to finance, but backed out of, at the last minute.

Prosecution turned to the handwritten notes of Adams, that described how Carruth blocked her car so she could not escape from the gunshots. Phone records showed calls made from Carruth to co-defendent, Kennedy, around the time of the shooting.

Michael Kennedy refused immunity for his testimony against Carruth. During his testimony, he said that Carruth wanted Adams dead so he did not have to pay child support. He also testified that Carruth was at the scene, blocking Adams car.

Watkins, the man accused of shooting the gun, accepted a plea bargain to testify against Carruth in exchange for life instead of the death sentence. The prosecutor did not call him to the stand because of a statement he gave to a sheriff’s deputy that Carruth had nothing to do with the murder. He said Carruth backed out on a drug deal and they followed him to talk to him about it. He said they pulled up to Adams car to find out where Carruth was headed, and Adams made an obscene gesture to them. Watkins said he lost it and just started shooting. The defense decided to call Watkins to the stand, but Watkins denied ever saying anything about it being a drug deal, sticking to his plea agreement.

Ex-girlfriend, Candace Smith, testified that Carruth admitted to her that he was involved in the shooting but he didn't pull the trigger.

Over 25 people testified on Carruth's behalf.

Carruth never took the stand.

Rae Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child and was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison.

Source:
Court TV
Rae Carruth News - The New York Times

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