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"Because I have a very strong Christian faith, it has made it easier for me," she said. "I feel that Cherica is still here in spirit. I see so much of Cherica in Chancellor, so in that sense it has made it easier. I just don't focus on what I've lost; I keep my focus on what I have left, and I make the best of what I have left. Early on, I decided to extend forgiveness to all four of those guys. Not that they asked me for forgiveness, but because I wasn't going to let bitterness and anger imprison me. So I think that made a great difference in how we can go on and live our lives in peacefulness -- Chancellor and I."
Adams, who is involved in victims' rights organizations like Mothers of Murdered Offspring, said there's no communication between her and Carruth, even though she's raising his son.
"Rae was keeping in contact with us somewhat during the early years" she said. "But there's been no communication with him since that time, and that's been roughly five or six years now."
Adams said since Carruth's initial appeal was denied, his family hasn't been involved in Chancellor's life either.
In 2003, Adams won a $5.8 million civil suit she filed against Carruth and the three other men convicted in the case. But with Carruth now broke and spending his most productive years in prison, it's not likely that she'll receive much of the money. Though some small efforts have been made by a very unlikely source.
"Van Brett Watkins is the only one -- I haven't had much communication with him either in the last five years or so -- but he had written me numerous times expressing his remorse and asking for forgiveness. And he was actually trying to pay on the civil suit, whether it be $10, $5, when he would write me, to try to send restitution because he was so remorseful for what he did."
With Carruth's meager prison earnings, according to Keith Acree, public affairs director for the North Carolina Department of Correction, it's a sad irony to think about the NFL money he once made and the millions of dollars he missed out on. He's now 35 years old, and as a wide receiver he could've been nearing the end of a successful playing career. Comparatively, current Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad was drafted by the Panthers a year before Carruth, and he's still playing, still earning millions.
Rudolf continues to represent Carruth on appeals. He visits him about three times a year -- most recently three months ago -- and says his client tries not to think about the what-ifs.
"I think he's done his best to get the positive out of his current situation," Rudolf said. "He knows that at some point in the not-too-distant future that he'll be released from prison when his sentence expires. I think it's another eight years, even if the appeal is unsuccessful. A big part of Rae is planning and looking forward to the future when he will be a free person."
Though convictions such as Carruth's are very rarely overturned, he's still fighting it through appeals. Rudolf feels that his client has more leverage after a set of specific rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Basically, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that you can't use statements that were elicited by the police for [the] purpose of incriminating a suspect against that person at trial," said Rudolf, in regards to the statements Cherica made on her deathbed and how they were the crux of the prosecution's case. "It's just not fair to have a police officer come in and testify about what someone allegedly told them without being able to cross-examine that person. And that's what the U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly in the last 10 years, and that was the basis of the appeal."
It's more likely that Carruth will be released sometime around 2019, after having served the majority of his sentence. His son will be a grown man by then -- in age anyway -- not having ever known his father. As cruel and unfair that it is that Chancellor has to live with a debilitating, lifelong condition, perhaps it's a good thing that he may never understand what his daddy did to his mother. That he may never fully realize what his father is most known for.
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