Once promising NFL player Rae Carruth now a prison janitor

— -- CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Five years ago, Rae Carruth made nearly $40,000 a game catching passes for the Carolina Panthers. His girlfriend, Cherica Adams, was eight months pregnant. Today, Carruth is an inmate at Nash Correctional Institution near Rocky Mount, earning 40 cents a day as a janitor. Adams is dead. Their son, Chancellor, celebrates his fifth birthday Tuesday. His grandmother, Saundra Adams, plans to take him to the cemetery where his mother is buried. "I want to honor Cherica on her son's fifth birthday," Saundra Adams said. "That's also the day Cherica was gunned down." Cherica Adams, 24, was fatally wounded Nov. 16, 1999, in a drive-by shooting in south Charlotte. Doctors saved Chancellor with an emergency Caesarean section. Adams, shot four times, lapsed into a coma and died the following month. Chancellor has cerebral palsy and still doesn't walk or talk, Adams said. Carruth, 30, was convicted in January 2001 of conspiring to murder Adams and was sentenced to at least 18 years and 11 months in prison. He works mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms at the medium-security prison about 55 miles northeast of Raleigh. A former University of Colorado star and first-round draft pick of the Panthers in 1997, Carruth has also worked as a prison barber, earning $1 a day. He has gotten into two fights in prison, and has been written up for making too many telephone calls, said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction. The state Court of Appeals has denied Carruth a new trial and the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have refused to hear his case. Still, Carruth's lawyer David Rudolf said Monday he has been reviewing recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that he hopes will lead to a new trial. "I've been in close contact with Rae over the past few months," Rudolf said. "We're both optimistic about getting a new trial." Van Brett Watkins, the man accused of firing the shots that killed Adams, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison. Watkins, 44, is at Central Prison in Raleigh -- one of the state's maximum-security prisons. He's isolated from other inmates, locked up 23 hours a day in a cell by himself for disciplinary reasons. Acree described Watkins as "a difficult inmate to deal with" and "generally a management problem." Watkins has been cited for 15 infractions, including fighting, gambling and disobeying orders, Acree said. In August, he was accused of assaulting a correctional officer, Acree said. Michael Eugene Kennedy, who drove the attack car, is behind bars at the Cleveland Correctional Center, a medium-security prison near Shelby. Kennedy, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to at least 11 years and eight months in prison. Stanley Drew "Boss" Abraham was freed from prison in June 2001 after spending a year and a half behind bars for his role in Adams' fatal shooting. Abraham, 24, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to assault with a deadly weapon, and being an accessory after the fact to shooting into an occupied vehicle. Saundra Adams has been raising Chancellor. In October 2003, Chancellor was publicly seen for the first time on "Oprah." Saundra Adams said she appeared on "Oprah" with Chancellor to raise awareness about domestic violence. She said Chancellor also is a victim of domestic violence. "He was developing normally until they ambushed and shot my daughter," she said.