SAMPSON COUNTY, N.C. -- Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth has just been released from prison after serving nearly 19 years for orchestrating the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, WSOC reports.
He was released from Sampson Correctional Facility in Clinton, North Carolina, at 8 a.m.
When he left prison, Carruth was given a copy of his release papers, his social security card, birth certificate, community resources information, and a pharmacy discount card.
Carruth was also given certificates for the programs he completed while locked up, including a registered examiners' card from the North Carolina Board of Barbers and a barber's certificate from Central Carolina Community College.
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) October 22, 2018
— Corey Gensler (@CoreyWSOC9) October 22, 2018
He is a free man. After 18 years Rae Carruth leaving prison in a hurry pic.twitter.com/MJWa8DJJEg
— Mark Becker (@MarkBeckerWSOC9) October 22, 2018
A former Carolina Panthers wide receiver, Carruth spoke to WSOC by phone days ahead of his release.
"I'm excited about just being out of here," Carruth said to the station. "I'm nervous just about how I'll be received by the public. I still have to work. I still have to live. I have to exist out there and it just seems like there is so much hate and negativity toward me."
On November 16, 1999, 24-year-old Cherica Adams, who was 8 months pregnant, and Carruth, in his third season with the Panthers, went on a movie date. Afterward, they left in separate cars, with Carruth driving ahead of Adams.
While Adams was driving through Charlotte, a car pulled up next to her BMW. Shots were fired, and she was hit four times. Prosecutors said Carruth used his vehicle to block Adams' car so a hired gunman could shoot her.
Adams managed to stop her car and call 911 on her cell phone. Doctors were able to perform an emergency cesarean section to save the baby, but Adams died four weeks after the shooting. The baby, Chancellor Lee Adams, was born with cerebral palsy. He is now 18 years old and is cared for by Saundra Adams, Cherica's mother.
Carruth, a 1997 first-round draft pick, first was arrested in November 1999 for attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges, according to WBTV. After Adams died, Carruth, who had been free on $3 million bond, went into hiding, failing to turn himself in.
After a nationwide manhunt, Carruth was captured in Tennessee in December 1999 and arrested for a second time. He was found hiding in the trunk of a car in the parking lot of a Best Western in Wildersville, which is about 100 miles northeast from Memphis.
The former wide receiver was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm into occupied property and attempting to destroy an unborn child. He was acquitted of the most serious charge of first-degree murder that could have resulted in the death penalty. The verdicts came back after four days of deliberations.
After his conviction, Carruth did an interview with CNN, saying he and Adams were never a couple.
"As far as Cherica and I are concerned, we never dated," Carruth said in the interview in February 2001. "We were never boyfriend and girlfriend ... we slept together ... there was no conversation."
Carruth spoke to WBTV in February, reporting that Carruth did not answer specific questions but took responsibility for "everything that happened."
Also in February, WBTV obtained a 15-page letter from Carruth, which he wrote as an open letter to Saundra Adams. In it, he apologizes for the death of Cherica Adams and Chancellor Adams' impairment.
"If I could change anything, I'd change the whole situation," Carruth wrote, according to the report. "His mother would still be here and I wouldn't be where I'm at. So that's what I'd want to change. I want the incident to never have happened at all."
Carruth also wrote about wanting to establish a relationship with Chancellor Adams, saying that once Saundra Adams has passed away that someone will need to be responsible for him.
"I should be raising my son," Carruth wrote, per the report. "His mother should be raising her son. Ms. Adams should not be doing this and I want that responsibility back. I feel like he might not ever have his mother in his life but he could still have me and I could still make a difference and I don't think that's anyone's responsibility when I'm still here."
According to the Charlotte Observer, Carruth later wrote another letter, altering his stance.
"For all involved or invested in this ordeal, please calm down," Carruth wrote, per the newspaper. "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."
According to WSOC, Saundra Adams said she has a plan for family members to care for Chancellor Adams when she no longer can.
"I never fill his mind with disability," she said to WSOC of her grandson. "He's abled differently and I don't focus on what he can't do, but what he can do."