CHARLOTTE, NC (Scott Fowler/The Charlotte Observer) - Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth has written a new letter from prison – and in this one he says he now realizes that he will never have an ongoing relationship with his son Chancellor Lee Adams, who lives in Charlotte under the care of Chancellor's maternal grandmother, Saundra Adams.
"For all involved or invested in this ordeal, please calm down," Carruth wrote as part of a letter he addressed to me that I received Wednesday at the Charlotte Observer. "I will no longer be pursuing a relationship with Chancellor and Ms. Adams. I promise to leave them be, which I now see is in everyone's best interest."
Carruth also asked me, in a separately enclosed one-page note, to give Saundra Adams a copy of his four-page, 800-word letter. I read the letter to Adams over the phone Wednesday afternoon before sending her the letter. She listened closely, then said she was going to decline comment at this time. Adams has said she has forgiven Carruth for his role in her daughter's murder.
Carruth is scheduled to be released from prison in October after serving almost two decades for orchestrating a conspiracy to murder Cherica Adams by hiring a hitman to shoot and kill her on a dark road in Charlotte in 1999.
Adams was 24 years old and seven months pregnant with Carruth's child at the time. She was shot four times by hitman Van Brett Watkins – who is still in prison and will be for decades – but managed to make a 911 call that both saved her baby and implicated Carruth in her murder. She gave birth to Chancellor shortly after the shooting. Adams would die four weeks later due to complications from her injuries.
Chancellor is now 18 and has always struggled with cerebral palsy and brain damage because of the traumatic circumstances of his birth. Saundra Adams, whose daughter Cherica was her only biological child, has raised her grandson for his entire life. He calls her "G-Mom," brightens every room he enters with his smile and has no firsthand memories of either of his parents. Carruth has been in prison since his jury trial in Charlotte ended in 2001.
A family friend of Carruth – who also sent documentation to show that she currently holds Carruth's power of attorney – told me that Carruth is "just trying to do the right thing here with the Adams family and not disrupt anyone's lives."
Tiffany Shears-Trice has known the extended Carruth family for decades, talks regularly to Carruth by phone and was confirmed to be a family spokesperson by another member of Carruth's family. Said Shears-Trice: "Rae can see Chancellor is a happy, healthy soul and he doesn't want to interfere with that. But he will still live up to his financial responsibilities for his son – he definitely wants to do that and he will do that. He wants to help."
In 2003, Saundra Adams was awarded nearly $5.8 million in damages for the murder of her daughter in a wrongful death lawsuit. The monetary award was to be paid to her by Carruth and his three convicted co-conspirators. But Adams has barely received any money from the judgment because the four men have either been in prison or unemployed for much of the time since Cherica Adams' death.
The first letter
Carruth had previously generated headlines Feb. 20 when he broke a 17-year silence by writing a letter to Charlotte television station WBTV and saying in an accompanying phone interview that not only was he apologizing to Saundra Adams for the death of her daughter, but that he would like to have the "responsibility" of having permanent custody for Chancellor after his grandmother died.
Carruth wrote in the Observer letter that he now believes bringing up Chancellor's future was a mistake and that he had been too optimistic about re-entering his son's life – although the former Panther believes he has changed for the better in prison and wrote that he still wants to "make amends with Chancellor and try to be the father that I should have been from day one."
"I now understand that any notions of me one day being welcome to Sunday dinner is totally out of the question," Carruth wrote in the new letter, which was postmarked Feb. 21 and mailed to me from Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, N.C. "And lastly, I didn't foresee the media and general public being unanimous in its belief that I shouldn't be allowed to ever have anything to do with Chancellor."
Carruth said in the Observer letter that he had once hoped that "if I humbled myself and worked hard enough, should there ever come a day in the distant future when the topic of Chancellor being cared for by someone other than Ms. Adams came up, that I might be given some consideration. It was a goal, something to aspire to. What's so wrong with that?"
Saundra Adams had reacted strongly to Carruth's original letter and statement to WBTV that "I should be raising my son." She told the Observer then she doesn't want the man convicted of conspiring to murder her daughter and to destroy an unborn child in the process to raise her grandson. Chancellor "will never be raised by a stranger – someone he doesn't know and who tried to kill him."
Adams, 60, said then she had already chosen who would be her replacement as Chancellor's primary caregiver when that time came. It was a person she didn't want to name publicly but who has known Chancellor since he was a baby, she said.
''Outside looking in'
Carruth has only seen his son twice – once at the hospital on the night of Chancellor's birth and once for a court-ordered visitation when his son was about 1 year old.
Saundra Adams told me in 2016 she planned to be there on the day Carruth was released in 2018 so Chancellor could meet his father, but that scenario seems more unlikely since Carruth labeled it a publicity stunt in his first letter (which struck a much less conciliatory tone). It is still not out of the question that Chancellor Lee will visit his father in prison, however, before October – Saundra Adams said Wednesday she needed to think more about the whole situation before deciding what to do.
In prison, Carolina's first-round pick in 1997 has become a barber. Carruth makes about a dollar a day after making close to $40,000 per game for the Panthers in the late 1990s. He also has written that he has developed a close relationship with God. Most of his family still lives in California, where he grew up, and it seems quite possible he will move to California as well once he is released. As for his son, Carruth now sounds resigned to the fact he will not see him regularly – and perhaps not at all.