CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- One of the three men charged along with former Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth in the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend will be spared a capital murder trial after agreeing to testify about his co-defendants.
Van Brett Watkins admitted firing the gun into Cherica Adams' car and pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, intent to kill an unborn child and shooting into occupied property, assistant district attorney Gentry Caudill said.
Carruth's attorney, David Rudolf, surprised by the plea bargain, said Watkins' testimony will not hurt his client.
"It's irrelevant for me," Rudolf said. His testimony can't hurt Carruth "if he tells the truth, which is that Mr. Carruth had nothing to do with this," he said.
Police say Carruth, 26, instigated the plot to kill Adams.
Watkins, Carruth, Michael Eugene Kennedy and Stanley Drew "Boss" Abraham were each charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and intent to kill an unborn child in the Nov. 16. Watkins and Kennedy also were charged with discharging a firearm into occupied property.
Adams, 24, was shot four times from a passing vehicle as she drove her car in a Charlotte suburb. She was pregnant with Carruth's child at the time. The boy, named Chancellor Adams, was delivered by emergency Caesarean section hours after the shooting. The mother died Dec. 14.
Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Shirley Fulton went over the plea agreement to make sure Watkins understood the conditions.
"Are you in fact guilty?" the judge asked.
"Yes, ma'am," Watkins replied.
Watkins, who has a criminal record, won't be sentenced until after Carruth and the two other men are tried. All are being held without bond.
Watkins' lawyer, Claire Rauscher, refused to comment on the plea or on the possibility that Watkins would testify.
Caudill said prosecutors gathered information that Adams' car was blocked in by her killers. He said Watkins fired five times through her window. Adams was hit three times in the back and once in the shoulder.
Caudill said Watkins, when questioned by police, said Carruth offered him $5,000 to beat up Adams and destroy her baby. Months later, Carruth decided he wanted Adams shot and killed, Caudill said. The prosecutor did not say if Adams had ever been beaten.
Carruth, a wide receiver and a first-round draft pick by the Panthers, was in the third year of a four-year, $3.7 million contract at the time of the shooting. He was released by the Panthers after he was charged with the murder.
Watkins' plea came just two weeks after reports that prosecutors had called off any bargains that would have allowed the defendants to plead guilty to second-degree murder.
It also came the same day that a judge held a hearing to determine how much child support Carruth should pay for 8-month-old Chancellor and whether Carruth should be allowed visitation. A ruling on visitation was expected to be issued Tuesday.
At the child support hearing, psychologist Jonathan Gould argued that Carruth should be allowed supervised, videotaped visits with his son.
Adams' parents, Saundra Adams and Jeffrey Moonie, have sued Carruth for custody of Chancellor and for child support. Saundra Adams currently has temporary custody.
Gould said Carruth told him he was excited when Adams told him she was pregnant because he regretted not having a larger role in his other son's life. Carruth has a 5-year-old son, Rae Jr., who lives in California.
Billie Ellerbe, the attorney for Saundra Adams, argued that Carruth lost any rights to visit the baby when he was charged with trying to kill the child.
"This is not a case where the man is in jail for slapping the child," Ellerbe said. "He was indicted for attempting to kill this child. Let him clear his name first, until then, he has forfeited this right."
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