Who is Rae Carruth? The former Carolina Panthers player released from prison after serving 19 years for girlfriend's murder

Carolina Panthers' 1997 first-round draft pick Rae Carruth was released from prison Monday after serving more than 18 years for conspiring to murder the mother of his unborn child.

But how did he go from being an NFL wide receiver to spending nearly two decades behind bars?

Cherica Adams' death

His path to prison started on Nov. 16, 1999.

That's the day the mother of his unborn child, Cherica Adams, was shot four times while driving her car.

She managed to make a 911 call that helped implicate Carruth in her death.

Adams fell into a coma and died less than a month after the shooting.

Carruth's son

The child she was carrying, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered by emergency cesarean section but suffers from permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Carruth's arrest on charges of conspiracy and attempted murder nine days after the shooting sent shockwaves throughout the Panthers organization.

Panthers reaction

The team released Carruth and the NFL suspended him indefinitely after he fled the Charlotte area after posting $3 million bail and was found by federal authorities hiding in the trunk of a car in Tennessee, about 500 miles from Charlotte.

Panthers center Frank Garcia, who was teammates with Carruth for more than two seasons, said players were stunned when they heard the news of Carruth's possible involvement in the murder, about 20 miles from the team's downtown stadium in the affluent section of South Charlotte.

"It would be like finding out the guy sitting in the cubicle next to you at work was arrested for murder," Garcia said. "You just don't always know people as well as you think you do."

Garcia said Carruth was a little shy, and mostly kept to himself. But he said Carruth had a passion for helping kids, including reading books to elementary school students.

It was a difficult time in Panthers history.

Some players were called out of football practice to testify at the trial. Those not involved would spend time huddling in the players' lounge watching the trial on Court TV.

"That is one time where you were actually hiding from the cameras," Garcia said. "You just wanted to stay low and not be involved. All along you're asking yourself, 'Did I miss any signs? How is somebody capable of this?'"

Carruth's time behind bars

While in jail Carruth worked as a barber, making about $1 per hour, according to North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesman Jerry Higgins.

That's a far cry from the four-year, $3.7 million contract Carruth signed with the Panthers after being drafted - although he never collected all of that money since he was released in the third year of his deal.

The future

Carruth's future is uncertain.

He was taken to an undisclosed location after his release.

He will be a on a ninth-month post-release program, according to Higgins. He would need special permission from a case officer to leave the state or the country during that span, but is free to go wherever he pleases after nine months.
Copyright © 2022 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.