The Carolina Panthers’ Rae Carruth was drafted in 1997 with the thought that he would be a “franchise player,” one who help the team achieve prominence in the league. Early in his career, it looked like Carruth would be just that, starting 14 of 16 games in his rookie season, with 44 catches for 545 yards resulting in four touchdowns—the most among rookie receivers.
During his time in Carolina, he developed an on-again, off-again relationship with a Charlotte woman named Cherica Adams. In late-1999, Adams became pregnant — Carruth urged her to terminate the pregnancy, but Adams wanted to keep the child. On November 16, 1999, Adams and Carruth went out to see a movie, but took separate cars. She was following him when he stopped suddenly. She stopped too, at which point, another car pulled up alongside her. The driver, Van Brett Watkins, fired five shots, four of which hit Adams. With her last bit of consciousness, she called 911. Her baby, Chancellor, had to be delivered 10 weeks early. He survived (and still lives to this day), but suffered so much blood and oxygen loss during the trauma, it caused permanent brain damage.
After a police investigation, Carruth was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder—he’d hired Watkins to kill Adams. Watkins got 40 years — Carruth was sentenced to no less than 18 years and 11 months. He’s currently the prison janitor at the Tyrell Prison Work Farm in North Carolina, and is set to be released in 2018, at the earliest. Chances are decent that he’ll be locked up for longer, however.