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Podcast: Carruth

Network: The Charlotte Observer/McClatchy Studios

What’s It About?: Chances are you’ve heard about Rae Carruth, but not for the reasons he’d have hoped. After an All-American career playing football at the University of Colorado, Carruth was drafted in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. A few months into his third season with the team, Carruth’s career and life fell apart after his pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams was shot in a drive-by and all signs pointed to him as having orchestrated it. Carruth was said to have hired Van Brett Watkins to kill Adams and their unborn child so that he wouldn’t have to pay her child support.

Adams would later die from her injuries but their son, Chancellor Lee Adams, survived after being delivered by emergency C-section 10 weeks premature. Chancellor lives with brain damage and cerebral palsy due to the events of his birth. He is currently 18 years old and lives with his grandmother.

Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison and eventually served 19 before being released from prison on October 22. Timed to that release, this podcast covers the entire story, from how Carruth got to where he was, to the events of that fateful day, and all of the people whose lives were irreparably changed because of it.

Who’s The Host?: Charlotte Observer sports writer Scott Fowler, who has been covering the case since the shooting took place in 1999. He was a Panthers beat writer when Carruth started with the team and later a columnist for the paper, covering the trial and its aftermath. In producing the podcast, Fowler went back and spoke with all of the people he’d reported on over the years (except Carruth, who would not speak with him directly, only through a lawyer).

What’s a Normal Episode Like?: The podcast covers seven episodes, the first of which gives us background on both Carruth and Cherica Adams, setting the tone that this series will be about all of the people at the center of this tragedy, not just Carruth. It’s a welcome shift as it gives Carruth’s seemingly flippant actions the weight they need. With each episode, we delve further into the events that occurred on November 16, 1999, as well as the aftermath, the trial, and what happened afterward. Episodes are thorough and in-depth, as you’d expect given that it’s produced by reporters and coincides with a printed version of the story.

Who Is It For?: For many, Rae Carruth is a name they’re familiar with but the specific reasons why have been lost to time. Especially in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez case (which also has its own podcast), it’s a chance for those interested in learning more to get the whole story. It’s also for those who do remember what Carruth did but are curious about why or how it affected those left behind, such as Chancellor or Cherica’s mother.

Who Is It Not For?: This isn’t really a “put on while doing laundry” podcast. They seem to have made a very deliberate decision to trim away the music and the atmosphere and make it strictly about the facts and the people involved. So those looking for something to put on as a background podcast probably won’t find this to fit the bill. This is the kind of show you need to make time for and focus on. There’s also a lot of discussion about murder and death, so if that’s not something you like hearing about, you might want to skip it.

Where Should I Start: This is definitely a podcast where you have to start at the beginning. Each episode focuses on a specific piece of the timeline and provides context for the next episode to come.

So, Should I Listen To This?: As someone who considered themselves a big NFL fan at the time, I found that there was a lot of details to what happened in and around this story that I never knew about, such as that Carruth already had a child with another woman. So I’d recommend it for anyone who thinks they might remember everything that went down, because chances are there are pieces to the story you don’t know.

Perhaps best of all is that, despite the name, the podcast gives just as much of a voice to all of the people Carruth hurt as it does to him. Plus, given who is behind the podcast, it’s unlikely you will ever find a more knowledgeable source of information for this tragic story.

About Sean Keeley

A graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse related things for SB Nation, Neighborhoods.com, Curbed Seattle and many other outlets. He currently lives in Chicago.