Today, October 16, marks the debut of Carruth, a new true-crime podcast about Rae Carruth, the most notorious football star in the University of Colorado Boulder's history.
The gifted wide receiver was a member of the NFL's Carolina Panthers when he was arrested for conspiring to murder Cherica Adams in 1999, when she was eight months pregnant. Cherica's child, Chancellor Adams, survived the ordeal but suffers from cerebral palsy linked to his traumatic birth.
Chancellor is now in his late teens, and in a letter from earlier this year reproduced in its entirety below, Carruth wrote that he wanted to have a relationship with his son upon his release from prison, scheduled for next Monday, October 22. A few weeks later, he dropped the idea, publicly acknowledging he had come to realize that keeping his distance was "in everyone's best interest."
The podcast is a joint production of McClatchy Studios and the Charlotte Observer. Its host, Scott Fowler, has been reporting about the crime for the Observer since shortly after it happened, just shy of nineteen years ago.
Here's a video introduction to Carruth:
And here's an audio trailer:
The seven-chapter podcast, accessible via links at the bottom of this post, focuses on the killing of Adams and its aftermath, and the tale it tells stands in stark contrast to Carruth's history of success as a CU Buff between 1992 and 1996. He caught more than fifty passes in each of his last two years at the university, in addition to serving as an occasional kick returner.
After leading the Big 12 Conference in touchdown catches and receiving yards in 1996, Carruth was drafted by the Panthers in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft. But his professional career wasn't nearly as stellar.
He snared 44 passes in his first year, but his total fell to only four balls the next season because of a broken foot. And he made just fourteen grabs during the first six games of the 1999 season.
At that point, trouble with the law ended his athletic career once and for all.
During this period, Carruth had been going out with Cherica — and on November 16, 1999, the pair went to a movie called The Bone Collector. The film was about a serial killer.
Afterward, Cherica followed Carruth in a separate vehicle — and when he stopped, she did likewise.
Then a vehicle pulled up alongside her car and opened fire. This graphic includes excerpts from her frantic 911 call.
Several weeks after speaking these words, Cherica perished from her wounds — but Chancellor was saved in part because none of the four bullets that struck his mother hit him.
Physicians delivered Chancellor early, and when he emerged, he was blue from a lack of oxygen — a probable factor in his development of cerebral palsy.
Afterward, Chancellor badly needed a champion. And fortunately, he had one: Saundra, his maternal grandmother.
Saundra took the boy home from the hospital on December 31, 1999, more than a month after Carruth was busted for instigating the shooting; his cuffing took place on Thanksgiving. Van Brett Watkins, the man who pulled the trigger, and two other conspirators, including Michael Kennedy, were eventually convicted alongside Carruth, who was sentenced in 2001.
As for Chancellor, his condition was so serious that doctors thought he'd neither speak nor walk without assistance.
They were wrong. He's able to communicate, move with the aid of a walker and even ride horses. He appears to be happy and loved.
The aforementioned letter, first shared by WBTV in Charlotte, threatened a major disruption in Chancellor's life, as well as that of his grandmother. In it, Carruth charged Saundra with lying about him arranging for Cherica's murder because he didn't want to pay child support and telling untruths about his personality and his connection to Chancellor's mom (which he insisted was superficial and only about sex).
According to this missive, Carruth felt Saundra's actions were intended as magnets for the media, which he noted he's despised since his time at the University of Colorado. Nonetheless, he used the same press that he abhors to get out a message that hardly cast him in the best light. At one point, he actually seemed to suggest that all transgressions are essentially the same via this jaw-slackening line: "The thing is, sin is sin, no matter how big or small an individual may want to perceive his/hers."
Not that Carruth expected anyone to forgive him for his horrific behavior, as he conceded in an introduction to his letter. In his words, "I have long accepted my lot as a social pariah" — albeit one who's about to be free in a matter of days.
The Carruth podcast is available via the Charlotte Observer or Apple Podcasts. In the meantime, continue to read the transcription of the letter, followed by a link to a copy of the original, handwritten version.
Rae Carruth open letter introduction:
To whom it may concern,
I didn't write this letter in an attempt to win anyone over, especially not the public. I understand what an impossibility such an endeavor would be and aside from that, I have long accepted my lot as a social pariah. Instead, I wrote this letter and chose to make it public in an effort to openly confront and debunk lies that Ms. Adams continues to tell about me, knowing full well that in doing so it will only add to the public ire against me. However, with the bigger picture in mind, it is my hope that despite the increased level of negativity that comes my way, what I have written will force the media and public alike to begin to challenge Ms. Adams on the truthfulness of the statements she makes about me, her claims of forgiveness and also her sincerity concerning Chancellor and I having a relationship going forward.
Rae L. Carruth
Rae Carruth letter to Saundra Adams:
Dear Ms. Adams,
I'd like to begin this letter by thanking you for the unconditional care, compassion, love and support that you have shown Chancellor from the very beginning of his existence. It goes without saying that it is because of you that he continues to exceed all expectations that have been set out for him, both mentally and physically. Chancellor is strong, vibrant and obviously filled with joy and happiness. With all that he's been through, Chancellor is nothing less than a miracle child. And you ma'am help make that miracle happen. For my son, Ms. Adams, you have truly been a godsend.
Which brings me to why I decided to write you this letter and the manner in which I chose to do it in. Ms. Adams, the story of how you lost your daughter, how Chancellor came into this world, and the way that he has gone on to endure, thrive and over-achieve with you by his side is heart-wrenching and inspiring on its own, that there isn't any need for embellishment or lies. And yet you've made a habit out of doing so in every interview that you've given since the beginning of this whole ordeal. I'm actually in awe of the way that you manage to come up with a new detrimental fact or statement about me year after year and how you're able to look into a news camera and utter these fabrications with a straight face.
Reluctantly I chose to remain silent until now out of respect for you and what you've been through and also because of my mistrust of the news media. But more importantly, I chose to remain silent for the same reason that I stated back when we were corresponding with one another. I saw how the lies you told about me garnered a greater amount of public sympathy for you and Chancellor, and the way in which you were able to capitalize on that situation and use it to better care and provide for me son. In short, I didn't want to ruin your hustle. However, I had no idea that this "hustle" would go on for so long, that you would so aptly continue to add new damning details to the narrative that don't contain an ounce of truth and further vilify me in the process.
I happened to read last year's version of what appears to be your annual fundraising interview with Mr. Scott Fowler and the Charlotte Observer. And after fully contemplating the negative things you had to say about me this time around and watching the cumulative affects of these lies on those who chose to keep up with this story, something had to give. For too long you've used my silence against me, and for once I finally feel the need to speak up for myself and hopefully put an end to this. In less than a year I will reentering society (God willing), and chief among worries is my safety and well-being. Ma'am, I'm already going to have an impossibly difficult transition due to one one else's fault but my own. However, with you simultaneously preaching "forgiveness" while conjuring up new lies and half-truths to incite more public outrage against me, you're unfairly making matters worse.
Again, you've done an amazing job raising Chancellor and finding ways to create income and opportunities so that you can give him the life that a child who's faced the challenges and difficulties that he has certainly deserves. You truly are to be commended. I just believe that you could achieve the same results by simply sticking to the truth. This would not only be the right thing to do, but if you are serious about one day giving me the opportunity to have a relationship with my son, it would go a long way toward making this a reality. We'd surely have far less personally to work out amongst ourselves than what's obviously in front of us now. Wouldn't you agree?
Anyhow, in no particular order, I'd like to address some of the things that I take issue with. And I know that in doing so, there will be added hate, anger and backlash against me. But if for no other reason than setting the record straight and gaining some much needed peace of mind, it has to be done. In my lifetime, I've come to the realization that everyone sins. Yet hypocritically enough, we all tend to hate those that sin differently than ourselves. The thing is, sin is sin, no matter how big or small an individual may want to perceive his/hers. And at some point, every one done in the dark really does come to light. # Sunglasses Ms. Adams.
Ma'am, you've gone on record in almost every interview with the claim that I've never made any apologies to you or taken any responsibility for the incident that led to the tragic loss of your daughter and impairment of your grandson. And this by far is the biggest falsehood that you continue to sell. Ms. Adams, early on in my incarceration you would write, send me current photos of Chancellor and keep me abreast of how he was doing. And in return. I would respond by thanking you for your kindness and on more than one occasion I included an apology to you for the entire sordid situation. In fact, a few years ago, I wrote and apologized to you once more after hearing you claim that I had done otherwise during a nationally televised interview.
Why you haven't publicly acknowledged my apologies to you while choosing to go on record and speak at length about the ones you've received from Watkins and Kennedy is beyond me. But today, this particular lie will finally come to an end. Ms. Adams, I want to sincerely apologize to you for the senseless act that led to the death of your daughter Cherica and the permanent mental and physical difficulties that Chancellor has to suffer through. I cannot begin to imagine the hardship and sorrow that you've had to endure behind all of this, and I am sorry for every bit of it. Having had time to look back and ponder on how the events of that night unfolded, I want you to know that I take all responsibility for everything. I could have done a better job of keeping Cherica and Chancellor out of harm's way. And it's something that will definitely weigh on me for the rest of my life.
Ms. Adams, another lie that you have been masterful at is convincing the public that you know me and even going into detail about my personality and sense of humor, ways and actions (both good, but mainly bad). You've even gone so far as to refer to me as a modern day Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde and claimed to have witnessed me be verbally abusive to your daughter. I've often wondered, though, how you'd respond if the truth came out that you actually don't know me at all. I mean, we met once and that was only by happenstance, when Cherica and I bumped into you at the apartment while the two of us were headed out to our first Lamaze class. That one and only meeting, by the way, lasted no longer than five minutes. And you and I never spoke to or saw one another again until you approached me at the hospital the night of the incident. Why not be honest about this? Are you ashamed or embarrassed of something?
Anyway, an even more egregious lie that you've habitually spread over the years is the nature of the relationship between me and your daughter. And although I've tried to clear this matter with you in a few of my previous letters, you obviously prefer the optics of your fabrications over the simple, ugly truth. Ms. Adams, Cherica and I never had a "tumultuous" relationship. In fact, we were never in a relationship at all. And never was Cherica under the illusion (or delusion) that I was going to propose marriage to her. Lust was the tie that bound us, not like or love, and neither of us was ever guilty of believing anything contrary to this. We randomly "hooked up" a handful of times and never made it about anything more than that. Both of us being the product of fathers who were married to women other than our mothers at the time of our conception, I guess you could say that when it came to carnal indulgences — we were kindred spirits.
Yes, I met Cherica at a pool party in June of '98, and we managed to hang out a couple of times afterward before the month came to an end. However, we didn't have anymore contact with one another until five months later when in November of that year I attended a birthday party for a teammate being held in a gentlemen's club and it so happened that Cherica was employed there as a stripper. We talked, caught up, left the club to grab a bite to eat, and eventually ended up at my place, where the first of our five consensual, casual sex encounters began. Prior to Cherica becoming pregnant, we didn't date, hang out at each other's places or talk long hours on the phone, Moreover, at no time was she ever a guest of mine at any Panther games. As a matter of fact, aside from the nights that we "hooked up," we spent zero time together.
Which leads me to my next point of contention. Abortion. Ms. Adams, you do recall that I was never present during any birthdays, holidays or family get-togethers? We actually never set foot in each other's homes. Heck, you can't even produce a photo of Cherica and me together. That's because outside of what me and your daughter did physically, we were practically strangers. More evidence of this is me realizing that while filling out our name tags during the one (and only) Lamaze class that we attended, that I didn't even know how to spell your daughter's name. More embarrassing than that was the fact that it wasn't until then that I learned her last name....
So yes, when Cherica called and informed me that she "might" be pregnant, of course I brought up the subject of what she planned to do if in fact she was. We weren't in a relationship, and we barely knew each other; which for me made this a rather logical inquiry. And Cherica answered by revealing to me that because of the guilt and regret she was burdened with behind her decision to terminate a previous pregnancy, she had promised herself that if she ever became pregnant again she would keep her child. So after attending a doctor's appointment together and having the pregnancy confirmed, because I already knew where Cherica's head and heart was at on this matter, I accepted the situation and that topic of abortion was never brought up then or at any time thereafter. And with no evidence to the contrary whatsoever, it's slanderous and foul of you to be publicly stating otherwise.
Speaking of evidence, you keep telling everyone who'll listen that me not wanting to pay child support is the reason behind your daughter's life being taken. Being that you were there every day of my trial, I'm sure you recall that child support was never offered up as a possible motive by the prosecution. Actually, the only time the topic of child support was ever mentioned happened during the cross-examination of Michael Kennedy. Remember? My defense attorney, David Rudolf, had Kennedy expand on the admission he accidentally leaked — during the taped portion of the official statement he gave on the night he was arrested — that the Charlotte PD had actually been the ones to start this rumor. And outside of you and the media — it ended there. Ask for a copy of the transcript of Kennedy's testimony or his official statement. It's right there in black and white.
With all due respect, ma'am, long before child support would have became a worry, I would have had to first deal with the issue of establishing paternity. Paternity, and not abortion, was the main cause of any contention between Cherica and me; and her own doctor could confirm this. Due to the nature of our relationship, our common knowledge that we were both sexually active with multiple partners, and other pertinent factors, it wasn't exactly a given that the child Cherica was carrying was mine. You yourself can attest to this, because after laying eyes on Chancellor, you and your lawyers still forced me to take a DNA test. Fear of paying child support was not the reason for all of this. Unfortunately, it was much more complicated than that.
By the way, during my stay at the Mecklenburg jail there in Charlotte, visitation was once every Wednesday, for fifteen (15 minutes). The visits were non-contact, so I had to communicate through a telephone receiver while locked into a booth that sat one on each side and separated from my visitor by a glass partition. There were four or five of these "booths" total and absolutely no space available for any any reporters or camera crews. This was the scene the one time my mother was granted permission by you to bring my son to see me and would have continued to be the scene had you not forbidden her from ever bringing him back.
For you to claim that I once ended a visit with Chancellor after ten minutes because of no news media being present to capture the moment is extremely hurtful and an outright lie. It's also something that never would have been possible given the schematics of the visitation room and the jail's safety, security and privacy rules. Also, this actually goes against my nature when you take into account my apprehension with dealing with the news media, which has been well documented since my days at the University of Colorado. And if that's not enough to put this lie to rest, trust that the sheer shame, disappointment and embarrassment I feel for even being in such a predicament would have never allowed me to try and pull such a stunt. And come on, Ms. Adams, had this incident actually occurred, I find it extremely difficult to believe you and the prosecution wouldn't have found a way to use it against me during my trial. At the very least, you would have made sure that the story ended up on the six o'clock news. For you to come out and make this claim years later is suspect.
Moving on, in recent years you have openly expressed your willingness to allow me to have a relationship with my son. My thoughts is that if such a thing were to ever come to fruition, I would be eternally grateful. I'd give anything to have the opportunity to do right by Chancellor and play a meaningful role in his life. I mean, come on, Ms. Adams, the reality is you're not going to be around forever. At some point, someone else will have to be responsible for Chancellor's care. That being said, of course, when that time comes, I would like to be in a position to be seriously considered as a viable option. To be honest, though, your words on this matter tend to ring hollow. I mean, it's one thing to make these kinds of remarks to the public during an interview, but a whole other thing entirely to follow through with me on behind closed doors. Ask yourself, Ms. Adams, what steps have you personally taken to lay the groundwork for this relationship to actually happen.
I'll tell you again what I've done. Back in 2015, when I was first made aware of you warming up to the idea of me getting to know my son, I was elated. So much so that I sat down that same day and wrote you a letter that included visitation forms for you and Chancellor along with a request for your phone number and permission to call. It has been almost three years since I mailed that later and to this day I haven't heard back from you, nor was the letter returned. I'm sure you'll claim that you have never received anything of the sort and that's okay. I already anticipated that you would go that route. That's why I'm renewing my offer right here in the open. Ms. Adams, I have eight months left here in North Carolina. And if you would come and see me so that we can sit down and talk in person or so that you could introduce me to my son, I will gladly send the proper paperwork to make this possible. And if by chance you're not up for a visit at this time, I would hope that you would at least forward me your number so that I could give you a call.
Like I mentioned earlier in this letter, in the beginning of my incarceration, you would write, send updated photos of my son and fill me in on how he was doing. However, this all came to an abrupt end when my mother's lawyer presented this information as evidence in court during the custody and visitation issue that the two of you had litigated (and that my mother ultimately lost). I've tried reaching out to you a few times since then, but my efforts were in vain. I'm still being punished, I suppose, for exposing the fact that we had been in touch and that you were being civil towards me. Which leaves me dumbfounded, because if you're being genuine about me having a relationship with Chancellor, what are you waiting for? Would it not be sensible and beneficial for us to begin the process of laying the foundation for this relationship as soon as possible?
Letters, phone calls, visits; all of this would go a long way in us building familiarity with one another, establishing a level of comfort and rapport, and also allowing Chancellor and me to have the opportunity to bond. I saw where you guys are now visiting prisons and talking to inmates. Well, I can't think of a better prison for the two of you to visit than mine or a more significant inmate for you to talk to than me. Why has this not already happened or at the very least been planned for the future? Perhaps because you truly haven't forgiven me after all? Or is it because you yourself only desire contact with me on the basis that there be reporters and TV crews present to capture the moment and neatly package it for public consumption? And if this isn't the case, why continue to advertise the fact that you and Chancellor plan on being there outside the prison to greet me the day of my release, which is guaranteed to ensure a massive media and public presence; but make no effort to spend any time with me on the inside of the prison prior to my release — where the press would not be welcome?
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Ms. Adams, it would mean everything to me to be able to know and have a relationship with my son.... However, if this can't be achieved privately and discreetly without the Scott Fowlers and Erica Bryants of the world at your beck and call, then unfortunately I'll have to pass. And as far as October 22, 2018 is concerned, I refuse to be a part of what's obviously another of your well thought out, calculated plays to further disgrace me while at the same time exploiting my son and his condition for personal gain and fifteen minutes more of notoriety and attention. Seriously, I will not be participating in such a shameful, blatant charade.
In ending, Ms. Adams, if you don't mind, I'd like you to meditate on something for me. In life, it is our actions that provide evidence of truthfulness in our words. Saying something without the corroborative actions to back it up. What' I'm getting at here is if you have truly forgiven me as you have verbally attested to on many different occasions, then why not act on that forgiveness. Stop misleading the public about your knowledge of me and the true nature of my relationship with your daughter. Because every time you speak negatively against me, it goes against your claim of forgiveness — especially when what you're saying is untrue. And ma'am, if you're being sincere when you say that you'd like me to be a part of Chancellor's life, maybe stop using this refrain as press bait and actually follow through. No news media. No audience. No hidden agendas. Just you and me stepping out on faith and treating this delicate, sensitive situation with the care, decency and respect it deserves. Ball's in your court. You and Chancellor take care and be blessed.
Rae L. Carruth
Click to see the handwritten version of the Rae Carruth letter.