Rae Carruth

American football player & convicted felon

Rae Carruth
Rae Lamar Wiggins

(1974-01-20) January 20, 1974 (age 50)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Other namesRae Theotis Wiggins
Rae Theotis Carruth
Rae Lamar Carruth
Rae Carruth
Rae Lamar
OccupationFormer professional football player (1997–99)
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Criminal statusReleased
Parent(s)Theodry Carruth (mother)
Samuel Carruth (stepfather)
Charles Wiggins (father)
Conviction(s)Conspiracy to commit first degree murder
Discharge of a firearm into occupied property
Use an instrument to destroy an unborn child
Criminal penalty18 years and 11 months to 24 years and 4 months imprisonment
American football player

American football career
No. 84, 89
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:194 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school:Valley (Sacramento, California)
NFL draft:1997 / Round: 1 / Pick: 27
Career history
  • Carolina Panthers (1997–1999)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receiving yards:804
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Rae Theotis Carruth[1][2] (born Rae Lamar Wiggins; January 20, 1974) is an American former professional football player who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. He played as a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). Carruth played college football for the Colorado Buffaloes, earning first-team All-American honors in 1996. He was selected by the Panthers in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft and spent three seasons with the team.

In 2001, he was found guilty of conspiring the murder of his then-girlfriend Cherica Adams, who was pregnant with his child. Including pre-trial confinement, he served 18 years of an 18-to-24-year sentence in the North Carolina state prison system and was released from the Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina, on October 22, 2018.[3]

Early life

Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Carruth attended Valley High School. He was accepted on a football scholarship to the University of Colorado Boulder, in Boulder, Colorado.

College career

He played four seasons for the Buffaloes and was named a first-team All-American in 1996. His quarterbacks at CU were future pros Koy Detmer and Kordell Stewart. Carruth earned his degree with a double major in English and education.[4] Carruth caught 135 passes for 2,540 yards and 11 touchdowns in his four seasons, with an average of 18.8 yards per catch.[5]

Professional career

Carruth was a first-round draft pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, taken by the Carolina Panthers with the 27th overall selection.[6] He signed a four-year, $3.7 million deal that included a $1.3 million signing bonus.[7]

Carruth had a respectable rookie season in 1997 and started 14 games, he caught 44 passes for 545 yards and four touchdown passes, tied for first among rookie receivers. He was named to the all-rookie team at wide receiver.[8]

He broke his right foot in the opening game of 1998, and did not catch another pass that season due to the injury. He ended the year with four catches for 59 yards (all on opening day). He played in the first five games of the 1999 season, with 14 catches for 200 yards.

Personal life

During Carruth's sophomore year at Colorado, his girlfriend, Michelle Wright, gave birth to their son Rae Jr.[2] Wright sued him for child support, and Wright later testified that Carruth agreed to pay $2,700 in child support, half of what he was ordered to pay by a judge, and she had accepted on condition that he be a better father.[9]


On November 16, 1999, near Carruth's home in Charlotte, North Carolina, Cherica Adams, a real estate agent he had been dating, was shot four times using a .357 caliber Charter Arms revolver by Van Brett Watkins Sr., a nightclub manager and an associate of Carruth. Adams managed to call 911, and said that Carruth had stopped his vehicle in front of hers, and that another vehicle drove alongside and its passenger had shot her. Carruth then drove away from the scene.[10]

Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child at the time. Soon after her admission to the hospital, she fell into a coma. Doctors delivered the baby via emergency caesarean section. Carruth went to the police and posted $3 million bail, on condition that if either Adams or the infant died, he would turn himself in.[10] Adams died on December 14, 1999. The baby, named Chancellor Lee Adams, survived, but suffered permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy as a result of being without oxygen for 70 minutes before he was born.[9][11] Chancellor Lee graduated from Vance High School in 2021 at age 21.[12]

Carruth quickly fled after Adams' death, but was captured on December 15 in West Tennessee, found hiding in the trunk of a car outside a motel in Parkers Crossroads.[13] The trunk also contained $3,900 cash, bottles of his urine, extra clothes, candy bars, and a cell phone. The Panthers waived him on December 16,[14] citing a morals clause in his contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely on December 17.[15]

At trial, prosecutors contended that Carruth hired Watkins and others to murder Adams because of her refusal to abort their unborn child.[16] Carruth's lawyer David Rudolf claimed that Carruth had been caught up in a drug deal gone bad. They claimed that on the night of the shooting, after Carruth had refused to fund the drug deal, Watkins shot Adams in a sudden rage when she "flipped him off" after he had attempted to ask her about Carruth's whereabouts.[17]

Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He was found not guilty of first degree murder, sparing him from possible execution. Carruth was sentenced to 18 years and 11 months to 24 years and 4 months in prison.[3][18]

Watkins was sentenced to prison for a minimum of 40 years, 8 months and a maximum 50 years, 8 months for the murder of Cherica Adams. He was last housed at Scotland CI in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and died on December 3, 2023.

Carruth sent a letter in 2018 apologizing to Saundra Adams, the mother of Cherica Adams, via WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, for accusing her of lying about him in interviews for years.[1][19]

Carruth was released on October 22, 2018, after serving 18 years. He moved to Pennsylvania after his release.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b "Rae L Wiggins". North Carolina Department Of Public Safety: Offender Public Information. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Bamberger, Michael (December 27, 1999). "First-degree Tragedy". Sports Illustrated: 40. Archived from the original on April 10, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Martin, Jill (October 22, 2018). "Ex-NFLer Rae Carruth released from prison". CNN. Archived from the original on August 12, 2022. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  4. ^ "Chicago Tribune: Chicago news, sports, weather, entertainment". Chicagotribune.com. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
  5. ^ "Rae Carruth College Stats". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved November 26, 2021.
  6. ^ "1997 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  7. ^ Richmond, Peter (July 11, 2013). "Rae Carruth, The Women Who Loved Him, And The One He Wanted Dead". Thestacks.deadspin.com. Archived from the original on January 8, 2022. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  8. ^ "1997 PFWA All-Rookie Team". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Lake, Thomas (September 17, 2012). "The Boy They Couldn't Kill". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on November 21, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Investigative Reports episode, A&E
  11. ^ Diaz, George (October 9, 2016). "Diaz: Human spirit lives in son Rae Carruth left to die". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  12. ^ Fowler, Scott (May 26, 2021). "Chancellor Lee Adams, the son Rae Carruth tried to kill, is now a man graduating high school". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  13. ^ "Carruth turns up in trunk at motel". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. December 16, 1999. p. C-1.
  14. ^ "Carruth waives extradition to return to North Carolina". Beaver County Times. Associated Press. December 17, 1999. p. B-1.
  15. ^ Heath, Thomas (December 17, 1999). "Carruth to Return to N.C." The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 28, 2019. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  16. ^ "Rae Carruth Goes on Trial for Murder". ABC News. November 20, 2015. Archived from the original on April 7, 2022. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  17. ^ Boghosian, Leslie (October 18, 2000). "Defense strategy: Carruth attorneys offer version of Adams' murder". CNN/SI. sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Archived from the original on November 28, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  18. ^ "Former NFL player Rae Carruth out of prison after 18 years". Business Insider. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  19. ^ "Imprisoned former Panthers player Rae Carruth breaks his silence". Yahoo.com. Archived from the original on April 16, 2021.
  20. ^ Perez, A. J. "Ex-NFL player Rae Carruth released after nearly 19 years in prison for murder plot". Usatoday.com. Archived from the original on November 2, 2021. Retrieved October 12, 2021.
  21. ^ "Fmr. NFL player Rae Carruth moves to Pennsylvania after prison term for girlfriend's murder". 6abc Philadelphia. Retrieved January 17, 2023.

Further reading

External links

  • Rae Carruth murder case compendium
  • North Carolina Department of Correction Public Access Information System - Rae Carruth
  • Career statistics and player information from NFL.com · ESPN · Pro Football Reference · 
  • TruTV series Mugshots: Rae Carruth - NFL Hitman episode published by FilmRise
  • Crime in Sports #001 - Did Tracy Morgan Shoot a Pregnant Woman? - The Saga of Rae Carruth
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Carolina Panthers 1997 NFL draft selections