Judge levies more than 18 years in jail, no parole
Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2001 8:33 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Rae Carruth was ordered Monday to spend a minimum of almost 19 years in prison for his role in the ambush killing of his pregnant girlfriend.
Judge Charles Lamm sentenced the former NFL player after hearing emotional testimony from the parents of Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant when shot four times in her car in November 1999 on a Charlotte street. She died a month later.
The 27-year-old player stared at the judge, showing no emotion, as Lamm announced the sentence. Carruth nodded to onlookers as he left the courtroom.
Adams' parents and other relatives embraced one another as the hearing ended.
Carruth was sentenced to at least 18 years, 11 months, with a maximum of 24 years, four months. Defense attorney David Rudolf immediately filed notice of appeal.
Carruth arrived at Central Prison in Raleigh at 6:40 p.m. EST and was issued a prison uniform.
Prosecutors said the former Carolina Panthers receiver set up the attack on Adams to avoid paying child support, using his white Ford Expedition to block Adams' car so a hired gunman could shoot the 24-year-old woman.
Carruth was acquitted last week of first-degree murder -- and was spared the possibility of the death penalty -- but was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and two other offenses.
Cherica Adams' mother, Saundra, said she forgives Carruth, but "in no way do I think he should get off easy for what he has done."
"He's already gotten the greatest of mercy -- his life is spared," she said. "Let him take the punishment not of a little boy, but of a man one time. Let him know he needs some help."
She also testified that her year-old grandson, Chancellor, born prematurely by emergency Caesarean section after the shooting, has cerebral palsy. Cherica Adams lost a substantial amount of blood in the attack.
"He can't hold onto his bottle. ... He has trouble even holding onto the rattle," the victim's mother said. "He's not anywhere near taking his first step. The doctors are telling me he might not take a first step until he is 3 years old or older."
Prosecutor Gentry Caudill argued that Carruth took advantage of Adams' "misplaced" trust in him. He also noted that Carruth has shown "not one ounce of remorse" for Adams' death.
"He offered no assistance as Cherica lay dying from those wounds," Caudill said.
The judge rejected a request by the defense to throw out Carruth's conviction as inconsistent with his acquittal on the murder charge.
The verdict implied that some jurors compromised, the defense argued. But prosecutor David Graham said previous court rulings have allowed such verdicts.
Carruth's mother, Theodry Carruth, said outside court that her son is innocent. "My son did not try to destroy his own unborn baby," she said.
Adams' father, Jeffrey Moonie, said he was pleased with the outcome, but still had questions for Carruth.
"I would like to hear why. I would like to know why," he said. "I'm still surprised he has not shown any reaction, so far."
Carruth will be brought to Central Prison in Raleigh for processing and evaluation and could be sent to another prison, said Tracy Little, spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction.
"Given the length of his sentence, it is likely he will remain at Central Prison for a few months," she said.
Jury foreman Clark Pennell said he was not surprised with the sentence.
"I thought it would be pretty close to that," said Pennell, who came to the courthouse to be interviewed on Court TV. "He [Lamm] heard all the evidence and he knows how the jury felt."
After arriving at prison, Carruth was searched and his clothing and the items in his pockets were stored, said Tracy Little, spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction.
Prison officials were deciding whether Carruth would spend the night in a dormitory where incoming prisoners are temporarily housed or be assigned to a single-inmate cell.
For several days or up to three weeks, Carruth will be questioned and his records will be checked and examined by doctors. It will then be determined whether Carruth will stay at the state's only maximum security prison or be moved to a medium-security institution.