Work in Sports
Carruth attorneys offer version of Adams' murder
Updated: Wednesday October 18, 2000 5:00 PM
By Leslie Boghosian, CNNSI.com
Less than a week before former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth is scheduled to go to trial for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, his lawyers filed a motion Wednesday in Mecklenburg County, N.C., Superior Court. It contends the Nov. 16, 1999, shooting of Cherica Adams was an unintended consequence of a drug transaction gone sour, and not a murder for hire as the prosecution alleges.
In the motion, which discloses a significant portion of its defense strategy, the Carruth team asks the court to order investigators to tell what they know about drug dealing by two of Carruth's co-defendants, Van Brett Watkins and Michael Kennedy. Prosecutors say that Watkins was one of three men Carruth hired to kill Adams. But the defense motion recounts an alleged conversation between Watkins and a prison sergeant in which Watkins is said to have told the sergeant that he killed Adams in a sudden rage.
Watkins has already admitted to firing the shots that killed Adams, and has agreed to testify against Carruth, Kennedy and a third man, Stanley Abraham. The court has accepted Watkins's guilty plea to conspiracy to commit second degree murder. The prosecution has charged Carruth with enlisting Watkins, Kennedy and Abraham to kill Adams. Carruth has pleaded not guilty and has been held without bail since being apprehended on the night of Dec. 15 while hiding in the trunk of a friend's car. Kennedy and Abraham also have pleaded not guilty, and are awaiting separate trials.
Carruth's attorneys claim in the motion that the events leading up to the murder began with Watkins and Kennedy feeling betrayed by Carruth for changing his mind about loaning Kennedy money to purchase a quantity of marijuana from Watkins.
The motion further contends the following: On one occasion in October 1999, Watkins was at Carruth's house and called Carruth and Kennedy over to his U-Haul truck and showed them a brick of marijuana. Watkins said that if they were interested he could get more. Kennedy was interested and asked Carruth if he could borrow some money. Carruth initially agreed to loan Kennedy the money, but changed his mind when Watkins arrived at Carruth's house with the drugs. After a heated exchange, Carruth agreed to call Kennedy later that night. But first he had a date with Adams to see a movie.
Carruth claimed in an interview with the FBI on Dec. 15 that he and Adams left the movie and went to his house to pick up a second car. The two cars were headed for Adams's house, Carruth told the FBI, until Adams pulled alongside Carruth's car and she told him she did not want him to spend the night with her. Carruth's account is that he drove off, calling a girlfriend in Atlanta from his cellphone, and wound up at the home of Panthers teammate Hannibal Navies where the two played video games until Carruth received a page summoning him to the hospital. It was only then, he told the FBI, that he learned Adams had been shot. Carruth also claims in the report that Watkins and Kennedy had come to his house earlier that evening, and he felt that they were trying to get money from him.
The defense motion filed Wednesday alleges that Kennedy spoke once on the telephone with Carruth after the movie and that Carruth repeated his refusal to loan Kennedy the money. According to the motion, Kennedy and Watkins then attempted to follow Carruth and pulled alongside Adams to ask her where Carruth was headed.
The defense motion alleges that, in his prison conversation with the sergeant, Watkins said he tried to ask Adams where Carruth was going, but she responded to his attempts with an obscene gesture. In a rage, Watkins told the sergeant, he shot Adams.
The prison sergeant made handwritten notes on the conversation with Watkins. Copies of the notes were obtained by CNN/Sports Illustrated. Quoting from the notes, the defense motion says that Watkins told the sergeant, "I had Kennedy pull along Cherica's car so we could see which way Rae was headed. I started waving my arms to get her attention. She slowed down. I think she may have thought we wanted to pass her. I was motioning for her to roll her window down. I just wanted to ask her if she knew where Rae was going. She slowed down some more. She looked over at the car and seen us, she flipped me off. Sergeant [name deleted], I lost it. I just started shooting. Sergeant [name deleted], it was Rae's fault. If he had just given us the money none of this would have happened."
Asked for a response to the defense motion, Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney David Graham said, "Our office does not engage in trying our cases in the media. We have no comment at this time."
When asked about the credibility of the prison sergeant who made notes on the conversation with Watkins, Graham said, "It's improper for me to comment about that at this time."