Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth walks free after 19 years behind bars

Carruth was released from the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton

BREAKING: Rae Carruth released from prison Monday morning

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - After spending nearly two decades in prison, former Carolina Panthers wide-receiver Rae Carruth was released around 8 a.m. Monday, October 22 from the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton.

Carruth was convicted in 2001 of charges related to the murder of Cherica Adams who was eight months pregnant with the couple’s son at the time of her death.

We watched Monday morning as Carruth walked out of the Sampson Correctional Institution, smiling, and climbed into a white SUV parked outside. It was not known where he was headed or who picked him up. Carruth is able to leave North Carolina but cannot leave the country until his 9-month post-release period is over. He must be cleared to travel before doing so, according to the NC Department of Public Safety.

It is unknown if Carruth will attempt to work as a barber, as he did in prison. Carruth received his barber’s license while incarcerated.

Certain programs are available to felons regarding finding employment, getting financial aid for education, obtaining a social security card and getting a driver’s license.

The 1997 first round draft pick hired a hitman, Van Brett Watkins, to pull the trigger on 24-year-old Adams, striking her four times while driving her BMW on Rea Road November 16, 1999. The couple was traveling in separate vehicles after leaving a movie date at Regal Cinemas in south Charlotte.

A third car driven by a friend of Carruth’s, Michael Kennedy, followed behind the couple eventually pulling alongside Cherica firing shots in the driver side window, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Cherica Adams died four weeks after the shooting of multiple organ failures stemming from gunshot wounds.

In February, Carruth spoke with WBTV exclusively breaking his silence from the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina.

Rae Carruth breaks silence in letter, call from behind bars

Carruth wouldn’t answer specific questions about the night Cherica was shot, but he did take full responsibility for "everything that happened.”

He referenced his son, 18-year-old Chancellor Adams, during the call. A son that he’s only met twice and who suffers from Cerebral Palsy as a result of complications from the shooting of his mother.

The Charlotte Observer reported Carruth now says, according to his primary defense attorney David Rudolf, that he fled the scene because he thought he was in danger.

“He was scared, and he took off,” Rudolf said of Carruth’s actions on the night of Adams’ shooting. “And he’s not particularly proud of that. It’s not sort of a heroic thing to do — big football player, you know, running. But that’s what he did.”

In a 15-page letter sent to WBTV, but intended for Saundra Adams, Cherica’s mother and Chancellor’s primary caregiver, Carruth apologizes to Saundra. Carruth says his intentions on sending the letter to WBTV rather than to Saundra is due to him not receiving a response from her.

"I'm apologizing for the loss of her daughter. I'm apologizing for the impairment of my son," Carruth said.

In his apology, Carruth says he still wishes he could go back to 1999.

"If I could change anything, I'd change the whole situation. 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," he said.

In former interviews, Saundra Adams says she plans to be at the prison gates with Chancellor when his father gets released Monday.

Carruth says he’s changed during the 17 years in prison thanks to a relationship with God. He hasn’t said what his plans are after being released but hopes that Chancellor can be a part of his life.

Theodry Swift, Carruth’s mother, spoke with WBTV Thursday saying she would not be in North Carolina upon his release Monday.

“Yeah, it is. It is very hard. I just envision him finally being free. Just wanting to share that moment with him, but it’s all in his timing in what he wants and what he feels is best for me and for that reason I can wait,” Swift said.

She said the first thing she’ll do when she sees Carruth is “what any mother would do” – hug her son.

She won’t disclose exactly what Carruth’s plans are post-prison, but she says she will be seeing him soon. She says she’s feeling a wave of emotions knowing a day approaches that she wondered if she would ever see.

The Carruth case has and continues to rattle Charlotte.

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