Former NFL player Rae Carruth was sentenced Monday to 24 years, four months, in prison, without possibility of parole, on three charges related to the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend.
The sentence, handed down in Charlotte, N.C., after the court had heard emotional testimony from the victim's parents, was near the maximum Judge Charles Lamm could have imposed. Carruth will receive credit for the 14 months he was jailed awaiting trial and can shave off about five years through good behavior, making his minimum term 18 years, 11 months.
Carruth was acquitted Friday of first-degree murder punishable by death in the shooting of Cherica Adams in November 1999, but was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm into occupied property and use of an instrument to kill an unborn child.
Adams' child, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered by Caesarean section six weeks before full term and survived.
Cherica's mother, Saundra Adams, testified during the 90-minute sentencing hearing that Chancellor is developmentally disabled and suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of his early delivery.
"He is fighting for his life every day," she said. "Chancellor at 14 months old is not doing things a 4-month-old can do. Chancellor can't hold his bottle. He has trouble holding a rattle. He's not sitting up."
Adams and Jeffrey Moonie, Cherica's father, both testified that Carruth has displayed no remorse for the death of their daughter or concern for Chancellor.
"Don't let this be a little smack on the wrist like, 'Oh, you are a bad boy and you should be sent to a little timeout.' " Saundra Adams told the judge. "Have him take a punishment not like a little boy, but as a man for one time. Let him be held responsible."
As Lamm pronounced the sentence, Carruth, a 1997 first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers, showed no emotion. Adams' family exchanged embraces.
Defense attorney David Rudolf called only one witness, a forensic psychologist who testified that Carruth had a calm demeanor and normally resolved conflict in a nonviolent and reasonable manner.
Carruth's mother, Theodry, said she wanted to testify, but Rudolf did not call her.
"In my heart, my son did not do this," she said.
Lamm denied a motion by Rudolf to vacate the guilty verdicts because they were inconsistent with the murder acquittal.
Rudolf filed notice of an appeal, which will be heard in eight to 12 months. Among listed grounds for appeal was the absence of black males on the jury. The panel comprised seven white males, three black females and two white females.
Lamm ruled that aggravating circumstances of the crime outweighed mitigating evidence introduced by the defense. Prosecutor Gentry Caudill pointed out that Carruth abused a position of trust to lure Adams into an ambush. Rudolf noted that Carruth had no prior criminal record.
Carruth, 27, is guilty of conspiring with three co-defendants to kill Adams because he did not want to pay child support. Adams, 24, was shot four times while driving home after going to a movie with Carruth and died a month later.
Gunman Van Brett Watkins, 40, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony and faces up to 50 years in prison. Michael Eugene Kennedy, 25, the driver of the car from which the shots were fired, and passenger Stanley Drew Abraham, 20, still face murder charges.
The defense argued that Carruth was being pressured by Kennedy and Watkins for drug money and that Watkins shot Adams in an act of rage.
Carruth, whose defense was paid for by the state because he is indigent, will be held at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., for several months before the Department of Correction determines where he will serve his sentence.