March 3, 2024


Van Brett Watkins, the man who spent about 20 years in jail for his role in former NFL player Rae Carruth’s plot to kill his pregnant girlfriend, has died, according to online prison records. He was 63.

Watkins was serving his time at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. He died at a hospital on Dec. 3 from natural causes, prison spokesperson Keith Acree said.

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Rae Carruth in 2001

Rae Carruth, right, and attorney David Rudolf listen to prosecutors on January 11, 2001, in the former Carolina Panthers wide receiver’s murder trial in Charlotte, N.C.  (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Watkins received more than 50 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to his role in Carruth’s efforts to kill Cherica Adams in 1999. He was the one who fired the shots that eventually killed Adams. He was sentenced for second-degree murder, conspiracy and other charges.

Adams was shot in her car as she drove away from a shopping center in December 1999. She died weeks later. Her son was born after an emergency Caesarean section. 

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Penalty flags on Titans field

A flag lays on the ground in front of the NFL logo during a game between the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers, November 26, 2023 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. (Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

He suffers from multiple disabilities and was raised by Adams’ mother. Watkins pleaded guilty in exchange for testimony that Carruth paid Watkins to kill Adams and her baby.

Carruth was acquitted of first-degree murder but convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other charges. He was sentenced to between 18 and 24 years in prison and was released in 2018.

Rae Carruth in 2018

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth exits the Sampson Correctional Institution on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 in Clinton, N.C.  (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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He played for the Carolina Panthers from 1997 to 1999. The Panthers selected him in the first round of the 1997 draft out of Colorado.



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