In a calm, low voice, Van Brett Watkins gave jurors a graphic account of how he pointed a handgun at Rae Carruth’s pregnant girlfriend and pulled the trigger five times.
Watkins wiped away tears after describing his emotions when he realized what he had done. He then swore at Carruth, stood up in the witness box and shouted: “Are you happy now?”
During his second day of testimony at the former NFL player’s murder trial, Watkins today demonstrated once again that he can be composed for long stretches of testimony but prone to loud outbursts.
Watkins said he was in the back seat of a car that pulled alongside Cherica Adams’ BMW last year. Carruth, he said, blocked her path with his vehicle and watched the attack in the rearview mirror.
“I fired one shot, then four more shots: bam, bam, bam, bam,” Watkins said in a monotone. “She was screaming. She was drowning in her own blood. You could hear a gurgling sound.”
Carruth, 26, could get the death penalty if convicted of plotting Adams’ shooting Nov. 16, 1999. She died a month later, after delivering Carruth’s son. The baby now lives with Adams’ mother. (See timeline below.)
‘I Couldn’t Bring Myself to Kill the Baby’
Watkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, avoiding a possible death sentence. He had agreed to testify for the prosecution, but was instead called to the stand by Carruth’s defense, trying shore up its contention that Watkins shot Adams on his own.
Instead, Watkins reiterated the prosecution’s argument that Carruth paid him to kill Adams.
“He hired me as a hit man,” he testified Wednesday. “He hired me to kill Cherica Adams and the baby. … I couldn’t bring myself to kill the baby. I shot at the top [of the car], not through the door.”
Watkins told jurors he was “petrified” of Carruth.
“If he would kill his own girl and their baby, what would he do to me?” he said.
Watkins: Carruth Drove Away After Shooting
Under prosecution cross-examination today, Watkins said Carruth, then a member of the Charlotte Panthers, wanted him to take Adams’ belongings after she was shot to make the attack look like a robbery.
After the shots were fired, Watkins said, Carruth looked questioningly in his rear view mirror, then drove away.
Watkins said he then went home and got drunk.
His testimony was stopped briefly when Watkins, growing increasingly tearful, swore at Carruth and said, “Are you happy now?” After Judge Charles Lamm sent the jury out for their break, Watkins stood up and shouted at Carruth, “Are you happy now?”
Watkins was warned by Lamm and a deputy — one of several seated around him — to stay in his chair. Outside the jury’s presence, Lamm cautioned Watkins to calm down and answer the lawyers’ questions.
Watkins said Carruth had tried on an earlier occasion to have Adams killed outside a restaurant, but the plan didn’t come off.
“He said he would run off and act like he was trying to get help inside the restaurant and leave her there for dead,” he said.
Watkins said he thought the plan, “like so many other plans he had, was no good” so he told Carruth he couldn’t get a vehicle.
Verbal Duel Between Watkins, Attorney
Before he finished with his testimony, Watkins and Rudolf engaged in one final verbal scuffle.
When Rudolf asked him why he didn’t bring his own gun the night of the shooting, Watkins said: “I don’t need a gun to kill. I’m 286 pounds. I can rip you apart like a rag doll.”
Watkins then turned to the jury and offered them some unsolicited advice: “Feel it,” he said, glaring over at the members of the panel. “You can tell when someone’s telling you some [expletive].
“I did it all,” Watkins continued, “but I’m still human.”
At that point, Rudolf interrupted him, saying: “I’m done, your honor.”
“You’re right about that,” Watkins said.
After Lamm excused him, Watkins turned to the jury one last time as he left the courtroom, saying: “God bless you all.”
On Wednesday, Watkins denied a jailer’s claim that he was mad at Carruth for backing out of a drug deal and shot Adams when she made an obscene gesture at him as he drove beside her car.
Rudolf had sought to introduce the deputy’s notes of the conversation, which Carruth’s team said went to the heart of the defense, without calling Watkins to the stand. But when Lamm insisted on first hearing from Watkins outside the jury’s presence, Rudolf dropped his request and called Watkins to testify.