SAMPSON COUNTY, N.C. — Former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth has been released from prison.
- Carruth, 44, was convicted of hiring a hitman, Van Brett Watkins, to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, in 2001
- A jury found he was not guilty of first-degree murder
- Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth Days Away From 18-year Prison Release
Carruth, 44, was convicted of hiring a hitman, Van Brett Watkins, to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, in 2001. She was shot in a drive-by shooting November 16, 1999 while driving down Rea Road in south Charlotte.
Carruth walked out of prison after serving nearly 20 years on Monday morning.
Watkins and Michael Kennedy, the getaway driver who also bought the gun Watkins used, both confessed to the plot. In order to get the co-conspirators to testify against Carruth, prosecutors offered them a plea of second-degree murder.
He was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, using an instrument to damage an unborn baby and shooting into a car.
A jury found he was not guilty of first-degree murder.
Spectrum News reached out to the jury foreman for the trial, Clark Pennell who now lives in Asheville. He explained why they believed Carruth was the mastermind behind Adams’s killing, but not for actually killing her.
“Since they had already given Van Brett Watkins a plea of second degree and he’s the one that pulled the trigger, in my legal mind, we couldn’t convict the person who had not pulled the trigger of first degee,” said Pennell.
Carruth was held in the Sampson Correctional Institution in the minimum security facility.
Carruth now goes by his legal name Rae Lamar Wiggins.