Saundra prayed for Chancellor's safety. She had a King James Bible, a gift from her mother more than 20 years earlier, cover held together with tape, and it told her that the shield of faith would quench the fiery darts of the wicked. She prayed some more. And she found peace.
On Jan. 19, 2001, after a two-month criminal trial, the jurors delivered a split decision: They found Carruth guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, of using an instrument to destroy an unborn child and of shooting into an occupied vehicle, but not guilty of first-degree murder. That meant he would not face the death penalty. The judge had some leeway in determining his prison sentence, and Saundra Adams was called to testify.
"Chancellor has cerebral palsy because of this act," she said, facing the judge from the witness stand. "This heinous act. You know, thank—we do thank God that he's still alive. You know, he is our miracle child. Because he was not supposed to be here if that plan had been implemented properly. But Chancellor is alive, and he's got such a strong will. Just like his mom. He is fighting for his life."
She went on, her voice gaining force.
"Every day. I see that in Chancellor every day. Chancellor at 14 months old is not even doing the things that some four-month-olds do. Chancellor can't hold onto this ball. Chancellor can't pick up a spoon and hold a spoon."
Her voice rose to a place of righteous fury.
"He has trouble even holding a rattle in his hand and rattling. He's not sitting up. Talk about first step—he can't even, he's not even near a point of taking a first step. The doctors are telling me that he might not even take a first step till he might even be three years old, or older. But yet Chancellor has such a strong will and such a great personality. And that's the trait that I hope—maybe he did get some of that from his father.
"Because I do believe in miracles, I know that Chancellor will be better. We're gonna give him lots of love, and I know that God is, is working things out already for him to be totally and completely well. And in my heart, even though Rae Carruth has not shown one single ounce of remorse, to me or anyone in my family, there's not been one 'I'm sorry about what happened to your daughter.'
"But in my heart, because I'm a Christian, as an act of my will, and because I know it's out of obedience to God, I am forgiving Rae Carruth."
Eleven years later. Hot day in June. You wait in a T.G.I. Friday's on the north side of Charlotte, looking through the glass toward the parking lot. A metallic-blue minivan pulls into the handicapped-only space by the front door. She gets out of the driver's seat and comes around to the near side. The sliding door opens, and you see him for the first time.