C H A R L O T T E, N.C., Dec. 21, 2000 -- In a calm, low voice, Van Brett Watkinsgave jurors a graphic account of how he pointed a handgun at RaeCarruth’s pregnant girlfriend and pulled the trigger five times.
Watkins wiped away tears after describing his emotions when herealized what he had done. He then swore at Carruth, stood up inthe witness box and shouted: “Are you happy now?”
During his second day of testimony at the former NFLplayer’s murder trial, Watkins today demonstrated once again that he can be composed for long stretches of testimony but prone to loudoutbursts.
Watkins said he was in the back seat of a car that pulledalongside Cherica Adams’ BMW last year. Carruth, he said, blockedher path with his vehicle and watched the attack in the rearviewmirror.
“I fired one shot, then four more shots: bam, bam, bam, bam,”Watkins said in a monotone. “She was screaming. She was drowningin her own blood. You could hear a gurgling sound.”
Carruth, 26, could get the death penalty if convicted ofplotting 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 apossible death sentence. He had agreed to testify for theprosecution, but was instead called to the stand by Carruth’sdefense, trying shore up its contention that Watkins shot Adams onhis own.
Instead, Watkins reiterated the prosecution’s argument thatCarruth 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 doto me?” he said.
Watkins: Carruth Drove Away After Shooting
Under prosecution cross-examination today, Watkins saidCarruth, then a member of the Charlotte Panthers, wanted him totake Adams’ belongings after she was shot to make the attack looklike a robbery.
After the shots were fired, Watkins said, Carruth lookedquestioningly in his rear view mirror, then drove away.
Watkins said he then went home and got drunk.
His testimony was stopped briefly when Watkins, growingincreasingly tearful, swore at Carruth and said, “Are you happynow?” 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 seatedaround 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 haveAdams killed outside a restaurant, but the plan didn’t come off.
“He said he would run off and act like he was trying to gethelp inside the restaurant and leave her there for dead,” he said.
Watkins said he thought the plan, “like so many other plans hehad, 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 Rudolfengaged in one final verbal scuffle.
When Rudolf asked him why he didn’t bring his own gun the nightof 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 someunsolicited advice: “Feel it,” he said, glaring over at themembers of the panel. “You can tell when someone’s telling yousome [expletive].
“I did it all,” Watkins continued, “but I’m still human.”
At that point, Rudolf interrupted him, saying: “I’m done, yourhonor.”
“You’re right about that,” Watkins said.
After Lamm excused him, Watkins turned to the jury one last timeas he left the courtroom, saying: “God bless you all.”
On Wednesday, Watkins denied a jailer’s claim that he was mad atCarruth for backing out of a drug deal and shot Adams when she madean obscene gesture at him as he drove beside her car.
Rudolf had sought to introduce the deputy’s notes of theconversation, which Carruth’s team said went to the heart of thedefense, without calling Watkins to the stand. But when Lamminsisted on first hearing from Watkins outside the jury’s presence,Rudolf dropped his request and called Watkins to testify.