‘He didn’t do it,’ Rae Carruth’s mother speaks out, 15 years after murder

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It has been fifteen years since the pregnant girlfriend of former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth was fatally injured during a shooting and the case still rings as one of the most high profile court cases in Charlotte history.

On November 16, 1999, 24-year-old Cherica Adams, a Charlotte-area real estate agent, was shot four times by Van Brett Watkins Sr. Watkins was a manager at a night club and a friend of Carruth. During the incident, investigators say Adams called 911, and said Carruth had stopped his vehicle in front of hers and another vehicle drove up beside her and fired shots.

Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child at the time. She reportedly told the 911 operator, medic, police, and a nurse at Carolinas Medical Center what Rae Carruth had done to her and her baby.

Doctors were able to save her child, Chancellor Adams, via an emergency cesarean section after she fell into a coma at the hospital. She died several weeks later.

Carruth, who played for the Panthers from 1997 to 1999, was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm into occupied property and using an instrument with intent to destroy an unborn child. Chancellor Adams survived, but was left physically challenged.

A man who testified that Carruth paid him $6,000 to kill Adams and the baby pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, as did an accomplice.

Ten years later, Carruth's defense team filed an appeal saying Cherica Adams' dying words linking him to the crime were inconsistent. In 2011, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that statements and written notes by Adams after she was shot didn't substantially affect the jury's verdict.

The former Carolina Panther has completed nearly 14 years of his 19-year prison sentence.

Known for being flamboyant, provocative and unpredictable during this high profile murder trial, the loyalty and devotion of Carruth's mother, Theodry, has not wavered over time.

"They don't know him. They don't know him," his mother Theodry Carruth said. "He didn't do it. Rae didn't pull a trigger. Rae didn't have a gun. Rae didn't kill anyone."

WBTV's Steve Crump spoke with Theodry in Northern California where she reflected on the case, the fractured relationship with her grandson, and domestic violence in the NFL.

"I know my son. Rae did no wrong. Rae did no wrong," she said. "If it was anything, it was guilt by association more than anything."

She's speaking specifically of the triggerman, Watkins, who is still serving time for murdering Adams.

She says the last time she saw her grandson, Chancellor, was nearly five years ago. He's now 15-years-old.

"I think the last time I saw Chancellor was over lunch," she said. "He beat the odds. He beat the odds."

She says she's missed out on so much in Chancellor's life and prays for him all the time. She's never been called "Nana" or "Grandma."

"I will be blessed one day to sit with Chancellor, hug him and love him," she said.

While expressing love for this child, Theodry says she's been the target of hate mail on social media, and at times had to assume a new identity because of a lingering stigma.

She was forced to change her name, just to get a job.

"I don't go by Carruth, because it was so hard to get a job," she said.

She's been following recent allegations of domestic violence in the NFL, including cases from Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Carolina Panther Greg Hardy.

She says Carruth's situation doesn't even come close.

"There was no domestic violence with Rae and Cherica. That's what people don't understand," she said.

When asked why she thinks Cherica is dead, Theodry said she doesn't know.

"You know, I can't answer that. I really can't answer that and don't know," she said.

Carruth never took the stand in his own defense during the trial. She says she thinks we will eventually hear his side of the story.

"When he's ready, when he's free."

WBTV contacted Cherica's mother, Saundra Adams, about this story. She declined an interview saying she wanted to spend time with Chancellor for his birthday.

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