Even though he was at the scene of the crime, Chancellor Lee Adams couldn't testify in the death penalty trial of his famous father, former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth.
Chancellor, now called Chance, was still in the womb when his football hero dad led his mother, Cherica Adams, into a deadly ambush of gun fire. Though Cherica was mortally wounded, doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section and Chance, now 14 months old, survived.
In never-before-seen home video obtained by 20/20, Caruth's son can barely stand or hold a bottle on his own. When he was delivered a month prematurely, he was blue and weighed only 3 pounds. He will forever suffer from cerebral palsy due to the traumatic nature of his birth.
'Bam Bam Bam Bam'
On Monday, a North Carolina judge sentenced Carruth to at least 18 years in prison for conspiracy to kill his pregnant girlfriend.
According to prosecutors, the heinous act was carried out on a dark stretch of road, shortly after midnight Nov. 16, 1999. Carruth led the way driving his white Expedition. Cherica Adams, eight months pregnant, followed in her black BMW. Behind her, three assassins, waited for Carruth's signal, pulled up beside Adams' car, and opened fire.
In dramatic testimony, the man who fired the gun, Van Brett Watkins, described the scene to the court. "Bam bam bam bam. She was screaming. She was drowning in her own blood," says Watkins. Watkins, who made a deal with the court to save his own life, testified that Carruth put him up to the hit.
A Desperate Call
But the most effective witness was Adams herself. When the recording of her 911 call was played in the courtroom, it was like a voice from the grave, coming back to haunt her killers.
"I've been shot. I've been shot," The courtroom heard Cherica tell dispatchers.
"I was following my baby's daddy," she continues, "Rae Carruth the football player. He was in the car in front of me and he slowed down and somebody pulled up besides me and did this."
Prosecutor Gentry Caudill argued that Carruth left the scene. "When the shooting stopped, Rae Carruth, the football hero, drove away and left Cherica Adams and his own son for dead."
Defense: A Drug Deal Gone Bad
The defense claims the real target that night was Carruth, not Adams. At the trial, they argued that Carruth's alleged accomplices were angry because he refused to finance a drug deal. When Carruth drove away, they pulled up beside Cherica to ask her which way he went, but Cherica made an obscene gesture at them. At that point, the shooter Van Brett Watkins "lost it" and fired the fatal shots.
"This is not about Rae Carruth the man, this is about Rae Carruth the football player, because if you knew my son as Rae Carruth the man, you would know he didn't do this," Theodry Carruth says.
Theodry says of her son, "Rae is a perfect gentleman. He loves kids. He loves animals. He's funny. I think his only sin is he's handsome. And Rae knew how to treat a woman."
Carruth and Adams met in 1998. She was a model and they were intrigued with one another right away.
Adams soon discovered she was pregnant with the football player's child. Cherica's mother Saundra Adams claims her daughter refused Carruth's request that she abort the pregnancy. She thinks that is when he started to form his plan to have his girlfriend murdered.
Saundra thinks Carruth had her daughter killed because he could not handle someone else controlling his life. He was living like a superstar with fame and lots of money. He was used to having control over who he was and was not a part of his life. Saundra thinks he considered her daughter a pest who would not go away.
This argument contrasts starkly with that of Carruth's mother. Theodry Carruth claims that once the couple agreed to have the baby, he agreed to support the child and even attended Lamaze classes with Adams.
But when Carruth arrived at the hospital, the night his son was delivered, Saundra says Carruth showed little concern about the condition of his girlfriend or his son after the shooting. "Not once while he was there did he ask how my daughter was doing. He didn't even ask about his son," she says.
He did cry when he finally saw his son Chancellor, shivering in an incubator, his tiny body nearly obscured by tubes. But then he said something that made Saundra suspicious. According to Saundra, he said he wanted a picture of the baby because he new that he would never see his son again. "When he said that I knew that he did it or he had something to do with it," she says.
In her hospital bed, Cherica confirmed her mother's suspicions by scribbling on a notepad, "He was driving in front of me and stopped." She scrawled, "He had it done, I think." Writing the note was the last thing Adams would do before slipping into a coma.
Carruth was then arrested for assault. After spending nearly two weeks in solitary confinement, he was freed on a $3 million bond.
The Wide Receiver's Run for It
Then, almost one month after the attack, Adams died. Suddenly Carruth faced a murder one charge and the possibility of the death penalty.
But instead of turning himself as was required by law, the wide receiver ran for it. He hid in the trunk of a car with $3,900 in cash and had a friend drive him to Tennessee. After 24 hours of searching, police found him curled up in the trunk.
His mother had tipped the authorities off on his whereabouts. "I didn't want somebody to see my son and kill him, just to say 'I caught Rae Carruth.' I wanted him safe. So I did what I felt was right," Mrs. Carruth explains.
Carruth was in jail for nearly a year before going to trial. During the sensational three-month trial, two of his alleged accomplices, Van Brett Watkins and Michael Kennedy, implicated Carruth as the mastermind behind the deadly ambush.
After an agonizing deliberation, the jury reached a verdict and found Carruth not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of conspiracy to murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child.
'They punished him for O.J.'
Carruth's mother complains the jury punished her son for the "sins of O.J." "People down here feel that professional athletes have just gotten away with too much. They had to punish him for something. They punished him for O.J.," she says.
Theodry Carruth and Saundra Adams are both single moms. Rae Carruth will appeal and the mothers will both continue fighting — one for her son's freedom, the other to avenge her daughter's death. They are two grandmothers divided by their children's fate, but joined by the grandson they share.
Mrs. Adams explains, "Theodry believes her son is innocent. I believe her son is guilty. But we have Chancellor in common. Chancellor, no matter what, is still Rae's son — Theodry's grandson. When I look at that little baby, I see Rae too."