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Anyone could see it. The boy had Cherica's eyes, but otherwise he looked a lot like Rae Carruth.
A week passed. On Nov. 25 the police rounded up Carruth and three other suspects: Van Brett Watkins (New York), Michael Kennedy (Little Man) and Stanley Abraham, a friend of Little Man's who was in the car that night. All were charged with multiple felonies, including attempted murder and intent to kill an unborn child. Carruth was released on $3 million bond.
At first the Panthers were cautious, noncommittal. Coach George Seifert said Carruth was excused with pay and that the team didn't have "a particular timetable" for his return. Asked about Carruth's absence, fellow receiver Muhsin Muhammad said, "It's no difference for me." The team placed Carruth on a leave of absence without pay on Dec. 2. Meanwhile Chancellor got better, and his mother got worse. Her organs were failing. A judge was seen on the local news raising the possibility that the boy would be put in foster care.
But that never became an issue. Saundra Adams hired a lawyer, Billie Ellerbe, a tough customer with a wedge-shaped gray beard. She directed him to draw up some paperwork.
On Dec. 14, 1999, four weeks after she found the strength to make the call that saved her unborn son's life, Cherica Adams died. Just before the end, Saundra lay down beside her daughter. "I love you," she said. And Cherica left just the way she had come, in the grasp of her mother's hands.
Within an hour or two, Saundra's lawyer had filed a motion in Mecklenburg District Court. By the end of the day a judge had signed an order granting Saundra Adams emergency custody of her grandson. She would carry a child for her daughter after all.
Now he wanted his son.
Now that his first plan had failed: Cherica quietly visiting an abortion clinic.
Now that his second plan had failed: Cherica beaten and hospitalized, the boy stillborn.
Now that his third plan had failed: Cherica and the unborn child both dead in a dark hollow on a cold night.