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Monday, October 13, 2003
Lawsuit by mother of victim went uncontested

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth and three men convicted of conspiring to kill Carruth's girlfriend should be ordered to pay about $5.8 million in damages to her estate, a lawyer for the girlfriend's mother told a judge Monday.

The request by attorney Billie Ellerbe came during a hearing in Saundra Adams' wrongful death lawsuit against the men.

All four were found guilty in 2001 of conspiring in the Nov. 16, 1999, shooting of Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child. She died about a month later; the baby survived but has cerebral palsy.

None of the defendants contested Adams' lawsuit. Judge Yvonne Mim Evans said she would consider the issues before making a ruling on the request for damages.

With Carruth, Van Brett Watkins and Michael Kennedy in prison and Stanley Abraham unemployed, the prospect of any damage payments is distant. But Saundra Adams said she pushed forward with her lawsuit for "justice and closure."

Adams is seeking more than $1.4 million in compensatory damages for medical bills as well as pain and suffering, and more than $4.3 million in punitive damages.

During the hearing, Abraham, Watkins and Kennedy apologized for their roles in Cherica Adams' death.

Carruth, the only defendant represented by a lawyer, did not speak. His criminal conviction remains under appeal, though the North Carolina Court of Appeals declined to overturn it and the state Supreme Court recently declined to review the appeals court decision.

Watkins, who has admitted firing the gun that killed Adams, told Saundra Adams that he has turned down book deals because he does not want to profit from her anguish.

"When I do get money from my family, I try to help," he said. "If I do get some, I'll be glad to send you some money."

Saundra Adams said she has received checks for $5 and $10 from Watkins and believes he is genuinely remorseful.

Cherica Adams, 24, was driving behind Carruth in Charlotte when she was shot four times. Prosecutors at Carruth's trial said he slowed to a stop, boxing her in while a car carrying Watkins, Kennedy and Abraham pulled alongside, allowing Watkins to shoot into Adams' car.

Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using a gun to try to kill the baby Adams was carrying. He was acquitted of a murder charge that could have brought the death penalty.

Prosecutors said Carruth hatched the plot after Adams refused to get an abortion.

Carruth, a former University of Colorado star and first-round draft pick of the Panthers in 1997, is serving a prison term of 18 years and 11 months.

Watkins was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison. Kennedy is serving at least 11 years in prison. Abraham spent 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to several charges.