Rae Carruth: Former NFL player who set up murder hit on the mother of his son is released from prison

After serving 18 years for conspiring to kill the pregnant mother of his then-unborn son, former NFL player Rae Carruth was released from prison on Monday.

NBC reports that 44-year-old Carruth, once a first-round draft pick for the Carolina Panthers in 1997, walked out of the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina, on Monday morning. In 2001, Carruth was sentenced to 18 to 24 years after he hired night club owner, Van Brett Watkins Sr., and another associate to gun down Cherica Adams, his former girlfriend who was pregnant at the time, in November 1999.

After the shooting, Cherica, barely hanging onto life, managed to dial 911 and indicate that Carruth was the responsible party. As the couple drove home from a movie theater in separate cars, Carruth pulled on the side of the road in front of her, while Watkins drove by in a separate car and fired shots at Cherica. She was eight months pregnant at the time. Shortly after exposing Carruth, Cherica fell into a coma.

“I fired one shot, then four more shots: bam, bam, bam, bam,” Watkins said in 2000. “She was screaming. She was drowning in her own blood. You could hear a gurgling sound.”

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Doctors performed an emergency cesarean section and delivered Cherica’s son, Chancellor Adams, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and brain damage, due to lack of oxygen after his mother was shot. Cherica died on December 14, 1999.

“I’m excited about just being out of here. I’m nervous just about how I’ll be received by the public,” Carruth told ABC9 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.”

Chancellor will turn 19 in November. After his mother died, his maternal grandmother, Saundra Adams, raised him. She said he’s a “happy and strong” young man.

“I never fill his mind with disability,” the grandmother said. “He’s abled differently and I don’t focus on what he can’t do, but what he can do.”

Carruth now hopes to “make things right” with his son and Cherica’s mother.

“I’ve apologized to Ms. Adams for the loss of her daughter and taken responsibility for what happened,” Carruth said. “I don’t want to harm Ms. Adams. I guess, honestly, I just want to truly be forgiven.”

In February, Saundra Adams told The Charlotte Observer that she had already forgiven Carruth and will leave an open door policy for him, but will never allow him to take care of Chancellor.

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

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[Feature Photo: Rae Carruth/Sampson Correctional Institute; Cherica Adams/Handout]