January 20

This Day in History

Crime

Jan 20, 1974:

Football player-turned-murderer born

Rae Carruth, the pro football player convicted of hiring someone to kill his pregnant girlfriend, was born on this day in Sacramento, California.

On the night of November 15, 1999, Carruth, a receiver for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, 24, went to see a movie in Charlotte, North Carolina. Later that night, they each got into their own cars and began driving to Adams’ home. Carruth drove ahead of Adams, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy. Shortly after 12:30 a.m., a vehicle pulled alongside Adams’ car and she was shot four times. Adams called 911 on her cell phone and indicated that Carruth had somehow been involved in the shooting. When paramedics arrived, Carruth was gone. Adams was taken to the hospital, where her son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered by emergency Caesarean section. Adams died from her injuries a month later, but not before giving statements to the police implicating Carruth in the crime and suggesting he had slowed his vehicle and blocked her from escaping the gun shots.

On November 25, Carruth and Van Brett Watkins, an ex-convict who later admitted to being the shooter, were arrested and charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle. Within days, the man believed to be driving Watkins’ vehicle and another man who was a passenger were also arrested and charged. Cell phone records indicated that Carruth had been in contact with the men in the other vehicle around the time of the shooting. After Cherica Adams died on November 14, the charges against the four men were upgraded to murder. At that point, Carruth, who was out on bail, disappeared and was found a day later hiding in the trunk of a car outside a motel in Tennessee.

Watkins eventually agreed to plead guilty to shooting Adams and to testify against Carruth in order to avoid the death penalty. During trial, prosecutors claimed that Carruth had hired Watkins to kill Adams because he didn’t want to pay child support.

Defense attorneys for Carruth claimed he was being framed for his refusal to finance a drug deal for Watkins. Attorneys also argued that Watkins had once admitted to shooting Adams not because Carruth had paid him but because she had made an obscene gesture at him while his car drove by her.

In January 2001, a jury acquitted Carruth of first-degree murder but found him guilty of conspiracy to murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and attempting to kill an unborn child. He is currently serving a minimum prison sentence of 18 years and 11 months.

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