CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Saundra Adams' jaw dropped as she listened to Rae Carruth's voice echo out from a laptop in the backseat of a WBTV live truck in north Charlotte.
The former Carolina Panthers' star wide receiver has spent the last seventeen years of his life behind bars.
In 2001, he was convicted of charges related to the murder of Cherica Adams, a 24-year-old who was seven months pregnant with his child. She was driving a BMW along Rea Road in southeast Charlotte when she was shot four times by someone Carruth hired to pull the trigger.
Carruth was arrested in December 1999 after Adams died. FBI agents found Carruth hiding in the trunk of a car in the parking lot of a Best Western hotel in Tennessee. He, along with three co-defendants, was charged with murder.
In January 2001, Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He was found not guilty of the first-degree murder charge.
He was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison and is scheduled to be released this fall.
Carruth spoke exclusively to WBTV's Sarah-Blake Morgan from behind bars, his first public comments since 2001.
Before speaking over the phone from Sampson Correctional Institution, Carruth penned an open-letter to Saundra Adams and sent it to WBTV. He said it's the way he wanted to share his side of the story.
"On one side, it's what I've been praying for, That he would have a change of heart," said Adams after reading the letter and listening to his words from behind bars. "On the other side, there was a lot of untruths in what I heard because I've never received any correspondence from him. Especially saying that he's apologized or that he's taken responsibility for Cherica's death."
In the letter, Carruth thanks Adams for the "unconditional care, compassion, love and support" she's shown his son, Chancellor from the very beginning. He goes on to call him a "miracle child" and credits Adams for that.
According to Carruth, his ultimate goal in writing the 15-page handwritten letter is to build a relationship with Chancellor, his now 18-year-old son. Carruth, 44, says he feels like he owes him.
"It does give me a sigh of relief because I don't think we could go forth with the real relationship until there was some kind of repentance," Adams said. "I'm glad to hear that he matured over these 17 years. I'm really glad to hear that he has a relationship with God because I definitely know that was missing prior to this."
From a prison phone, Carruth told WBTV that he let his son down "as he came into this world and the only way that I can make that right and the only way I can reconcile my relationship with my son is to be there for him."
Saundra Adams responded directly to Carruth's wish.
"I don't see Rae Carruth having custody of Chancellor Lee Adams ever," she said. "I'm not concerned about him getting custody of Chancellor."
Adams has said in past interviews she plans to be at the prison gates with Chancellor when Carruth is released. She's also said she is open to the two having a relationship.
On October 22nd, 2018, Rae Carruth will be a free man.
He doesn't say much about his plans, just that he'll likely go back to California to live a private life. He hopes Chancellor can one day be a part of it and he wants Saundra Adams to know the ball is in her court.