Scott Fowler

Rae Carruth, in his own words, on his son, his life and second chances

Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth sent me several emails following our recent conversation at Carruth’s home in Pennsylvania.

After nearly 19 years, Carruth was released from a North Carolina prison in October following his 2001 conviction for conspiring to murder his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams.

In November, Carruth and I began what turned into a multi-part, exclusive interview over several weeks. Part of that interview included Carruth answering some of my questions in emails that he said could be published here and also excerpted in the Charlotte Observer’s “Carruth” podcast.

While Carruth answered many questions about his current life and his future, he refused to talk about Adams’ murder, saying that wouldn’t help anyone involved. Here are several excerpts from Carruth’s emails.

On wanting to see his disabled son Chancellor Lee Adams, who is now 19, living in Charlotte and being raised by his grandmother Saundra Adams.

Carruth: “I honestly have no intentions or desires of ever trying to do anything to come between Ms. Adams and Chancellor. My hope is that one day I will be given the opportunity to spend time with and to possibly have a relationship with my son. And unless or until Ms. Adams actually says that such a thing will never happen, I’m going to hold on to that hope.”

On whether he thinks that visit will ever happen.

Carruth: “When it comes to Ms. Adams and Chancellor, my only desire is for true forgiveness and a genuine opportunity to be a part of my son’s life. And out (of) respect for Ms. Adams and her feelings towards me, I have no plans of ever trying to force my way in. I’m going to be patient and give her the space she rightfully deserves. When the time is right, I believe that Ms. Adams will eventually extend an invitation for me to have contact with my son — and I will eagerly accept.”

Saundra and Chancellor 2017
Chancellor Lee Adams and his grandmother and caregiver Saundra Adams moved into a house in Charlotte in 2017 that was designed specifically to help him cope with his physical challenges. Jeff Siner

Van Brett Watkins on stand
Van Brett Watkins considers a question asked by defense attorney David Rudolf on Dec. 20, 2000, in Charlotte, during the capital murder trial of Rae Carruth. Watkins, who admitted shooting Carruth’s pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams, verbally sparred with Rudolf for two days of riveting testimony. Jeff Siner

On Van Brett Watkins, the admitted triggerman in the shooting of Cherica Adams, telling the Observer from prison that he wanted Carruth dead and was “trying to figure out a way to kill him.”

Carruth: “As far as Watkins is concerned, he’s obviously a very angry and disturbed man who doesn’t seem to care too much for me. If I could tell him one thing, it would be that we must all accept responsibility for the decisions we make in life. No one else is to blame for our misdeeds and wrongdoing.

“That being said, he and he alone is accountable for the situation he finds himself in — not me. ... I wish him nothing but inner peace.”

On his life now in Pennsylvania, where he lives with a friend.

Carruth: “Like I shared with you when we spoke, I would love to one day be able to join a bowling league or a softball team, and to live my life like a normal human being, but honestly, that’s wishful thinking.

“I mean, yes, I have a job, but I work from home, and it’s for family.

“It would be nice if I could go out into the world and have the guarantee that no one would recognize me or that even if they did the encounter wouldn’t be negative. However, I’m already finding out that that’s not necessarily going to be the case.

“I’m using my nine months of parole to gauge whether or not I can actually carve out somewhat of a normal existence for myself here in the states. And once that time has passed, if I just can’t see that happening, I will definitely begin making arrangements to leave the country. I have family outside of the U.S. that has assured me that I would have no problem joining them should things not work out here.”

Carruth, who converted to Islam while in prison, on finding a mosque in Pennsylvania.

Carruth: “I do have a mosque that I attend and so far so good. If I could describe in one word how it feels to go into that place each Friday it would be: Awestruck. For me it’s an amazing experience each time.”

On whether he ever suffered concussions during his football career.

Carruth: “Yes. … Once I got hit so hard that I couldn’t close my eyes. I turned to one of my teammates and he slapped me upside the helmet with full force and vision was restored. … My eyelids had been flipped inside out. I didn’t have many, but I guess we’re learning now that even one can be too much. … No adverse effects here — so far.”

Rae Carruth on Panthers bench
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth talks with teammate Jason Peter on the bench before the team’s game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis on Nov. 14, 1999. Within the next 48 hours his life, and many others, would change forever when his pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams was shot four times in Charlotte. Jeff Siner

On his second chance at life.

Carruth: “I don’t take my freedom lightly or for granted. I remind myself every day that things could have turned out differently, and that I’m blessed that God chose otherwise for me.

“I could have been put to death by now or serving a natural life sentence. ... So every morning I wake up, I’m grateful for the second chance that I’ve been given, and my No. 1 priority each day is to try and find a way to live better and to be better than I ever was before.

“I’ve forgiven myself for any and all wrongdoing that I’ve done in the past, and I’m simply trying to live my life as peacefully and gracefully as I possibly can.”

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for The Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also hosted the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth,” which Sports Illustrated named the best podcast of the year in 2018.