About 13 years ago, Rae Carruth had the world in his hands, the soft hands of a young and talented wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. He made the NFL All-Rookie team in 1997, was adored by fans, feared by defenders and loved by a young woman who was carrying his baby.
Now, Carruth is serving an 18-to-24-year prison term after being found guilty in 2001 on three charges to conspiracy to commit murder. Even though he had plenty of money, Carruth was not intent on paying child support, so he hired a couple of thugs to murder the mother of his child and the baby too.
It was a crime that snuffed out the life of 23-year-old Cherica Adams. Her baby survived. Chancellor Lee Adams was born by C-section the same night his mother was shot 5 times on dark road in Charlotte, N.C. As Cherica hemorrhaged blood, the baby lost oxygen, causing tissue damage to his brain.
Chancellor is now a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy caused by near suffocation at birth. His grandmother, Saundra Adams, has taken care of him since the day she lost her daughter who died in the hospital one month after the shooting.
Thomas Lake wrote a story for Sport’s Illustrated that did not focus on Carruth’s horrible crime all these years later. Instead, Lake wrote the story of a strong woman with a huge heart. It is a supreme testimony to the power of love and forgiveness.
In the touching piece at SI.com, Lake writes that Chancellor is a happy kid despite his physical challenges. His grandmother does not see the need to explain the details of how Chancellor’s mother died and what caused his disabilities.
“Well he knows that Mommy was killed and that Daddy did, you know, Daddy did a bad thing,” Saundra told Lake. “And he’s in jail now paying for the bad thing he did. And we just say, that he, you know, he made a mistake.”
Saundra Adams witnessed Chancellor struggling to do the things other kids do at certain ages. He could not hold and shake a rattle at 14 months. He could not sit up, let alone take his first steps. Walking seemed like something Chancellor never would do- but he can now.
At age 42, Saundra Adams became a grandmother. She spent her first 28 days as a grandparent watching her only child die while her grandson was tied to wires and machines.
During the trial of Rae Carruth, Saundra Adams was called to testify.
“Chancellor has cerebral palsy because of this act,” she said from the witness stand. “We do thank God that he’s still alive. You know, he is our miracle child. Because he was not supposed to be here if that plan had been implemented properly. But Chancellor is alive and he’s got such a strong will. Just like his mom. He is fighting for his life.”
Later in her testimony, in all her sorrow and pain, Saundra said this to the judge, jury and defendant:
“Because I do believe in miracles, I know Chancellor will be better. We’re going to give him lots of love, and I know that God is working things out already for him to be totally happy and completely well. And in my heart, even though Rae Carruth has not shown one single ounce of remorse, to me or anyone in my family, there’s not been one ‘I’m sorry about our daughter.’
“But in my heart, because I am a Christian, as an act of my will, and because I know it’s out of obedience to God, I am forgiving Rae Carruth.”
Saundra Adams went on to devote her life to Chancellor, who is called Lee. She is there for his therapy, there to make his breakfast and there to say good-night. Saundra is “G-Mom” to Lee, and Cherica is called “Angel-Mom.”
Like his father, Chancellor Lee Adams is an athlete. He won a gold medal last spring in the 30 meters in his motorized wheelchair at the Mecklenburg County Special Olympics. He plays flag football from his motor chair with G-Mom cheering from the sidelines.
Saundra said that after everything she can thank Carruth for her grandson.
“You can focus on what you’ve lost or what you have left, she said. “So I didn’t lose. I have my grandson. I have my daughter with me in my heart, always. I have her with me through Lee. So I don’t focus on loss. I mean, I think she’s in heaven with God, so that’s definitely not a loss. So I’ve got a lot left, and a lot of hope left, and a lot to live for, and to be able to help my grandson to become the wonderful man he’s meant to be. I haven’t lost anything.
“Really, I’ve gained. I’ve been pushed into my role and destiny.”
Rae Carruth’s crime is undeniably the worst in sports. His projected release date is October 22, 2018. Chancellor Lee will be 18.
Saundra Adams will look into the eyes of the person who set the plot to have her daughter killed. She will witness her grandson meeting his father man to man. This grandmother could be filled with hatred, and who could blame her?
Chances are that Saundra will stay with forgiveness – not that Carruth deserves it, but because she wants it that way.
G-Mom is into love, not hate. And somewhere up there Angel-Mom is smiling.
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