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Watkins enters guilty plea

Carruth's co-defendant pleads guilty to shooting Adams

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Latest: Tuesday August 01, 2000 01:02 AM

  Van Brett Watkins Van Brett Watkins may eventually testify against co-defendant Rae Carruth. AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The man accused of shooting the girlfriend of former Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday and agreed to testify against Carruth and two co-defendants.

Van Brett Watkins also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, intent to kill an unborn child and shooting into occupied property, assistant district attorney Gentry Caudill said.

Watkins admitted in court that he fired the gun that killed Cherica Adams, Caudill said.

"We anticipate that he will testify in the other cases," the prosecutor said.

Watkins' lawyer, Claire Rauscher, refused to comment on the plea or on the possibility that Watkins would testify.

Watkins faces more than 50 years in prison, but won't be sentenced until after Carruth and the two other men are tried. During Monday's hearing, prosecutors announced they hoped to try the defendants together in October.

The plea was a surprise to Carruth's criminal lawyer, David Rudolf, but he said he "always assumed [Watkins] would be testifying."

"He's going to say what he's going to say, and we'll deal with it through cross-examination," Rudolf said.

He said Watkins' testimony can't hurt his client "if he tells the truth, which is that Mr. Carruth had nothing to do with this."

Adams was shot four times from a passing vehicle as she drove her car in a Charlotte suburb on Nov. 16.

Adams was pregnant with Carruth's child at the time. The boy was delivered by emergency Caesarean section hours after the shooting. Adams died Dec. 14.

Carruth had been sidelined since October with an ankle injury. He was in the third year of a four-year, $3.7 million contract. He was released by the Panthers after he was charged with the murder.

Watkins' plea came just two weeks after reports that prosecutors had called off any plea bargains that would have allowed the defendants to plead guilty to second-degree murder.

It also came the same day that a judge held a hearing to determine how much child support Carruth should pay for 8-month-old Chancellor Adams and whether Carruth should be allowed visitation.

Rudolf, who was with Carruth at the child support hearing, said Carruth maintains his innocence.

A plea by Watkins "wouldn't matter," he said. "That's irrelevant to us."

At the child support hearing, psychologist Jonathan Gould argued that Carruth should be allowed supervised, videotaped visits with his son. Carruth is being held without bond in the Mecklenburg County Jail, so Gould suggested the visits could be held in a conference room adjacent to the prison library.

He said studies showed that failure to allow Chancellor time to bond with Carruth could be detrimental to the child's development.

"No child is best served by having no contact with their father," Gould said. "They tend to create a fantasy concept of the father and you don't want to create a fantasy that is either all good or all bad."

Adams' parents, Saundra Adams and Jeffrey Moonie, have sued Carruth for custody of Chancellor and for child support. Saundra Adams currently has temporary custody.

Gould's report, which was based on interviews with Carruth and 14 other friends and relatives, was admitted into evidence but then sealed by Judge Yvonne Mims Evans.

In the report, Gould detailed conversations he had with Carruth in which Carruth discussed his relationship with Adams, whom Carruth considered a casual girlfriend.

Gould said Carruth told him he was excited when Adams told him she was pregnant because he regretted not having a larger role in his other son's life. Carruth has a 5-year-old son, Rae Jr., who lives in California.

"He felt he had missed many firsts with Rae Jr., I believe his words were `I promised myself I would not miss those firsts again. I wanted to be there right out of the gate,'" Gould said, referring to the report.

Gould also said Carruth told him he and Adams had developed a friendship during her pregnancy in which they spent one evening a week together in a nonromantic way so they could be "co-parents" to the child.

Billie Ellerbe, the attorney for Saundra Adams, argued that Carruth lost any rights to visit the baby once he was charged with trying to kill the child.

"This is not a case where the man is in jail for slapping the child," Ellerbe said. "He was indicted for attempting to kill this child. Let him clear his name first, until then, he has forfeited this right."

Evans said she would rule on the visitation request Tuesday.


 
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