CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Saundra and Chancellor Lee Adams have become the examples for love and forgiveness after being a part of one of Charlotte's most infamous cases of domestic violence.
Now they're taking their message behind bars, and helping offenders in a new pilot program that South Carolina officials hope will help turn things around for good.
State probation and parole agents said Adams and Chancellor Lee's powerful personal story has a life-changing impact on offenders.
For nearly 18 years now, Saundra Adams has raised her grandson, Chancellor Lee.
Chancellor Lee is a young man born prematurely and with cerebral palsy as a result of what is arguably Charlotte's most infamous case of domestic violence.
His father, former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, orchestrated the murder of his mother, Cherica Adams, while she was pregnant.
She died but despite the odds, Lee survived.
Since losing her only child and becoming the primary caregiver for her grandson, Adams has been driven to try to deter domestic violence.
She has talked about the issue to anyone who would listen, mostly survivors and advocates.
Last year, when she was invited to take her message behind bars for the first time in York County, she didn't hesitate.
"It fits in very appropriately to talk to the offenders, not to beat them up or to say how bad they are because I'm sure most of them already feel remorse for the violent acts that they have committed," Adams said. "I wanted them to know mainly that your whole life doesn't have to be defined by one choice that you make."
Chancellor Lee is also speaking more. He said he feels like he has helped people with his "smile ministry" promoting forgiveness.
The two have worked with a pilot program through York County Probation and Parole focused on intensive supervision of DV offenders.
Channel 9's coverage on Saundra and Chancellor Lee Adams:
- Saundra Adams receives special honor for helping domestic violence victims
- Chancellor Adams grandmother, Saundra, receives 'American Hero' award
- Rae Carruth's son turns 16, shares message against violence with grandmother
- When Rae Carruth is set free, son he ordered dead may be at prison gates
- 15 years later: Rae Carruth's teenage son
"There have been times that I have been speaking and I watch those grown men cry and I can tell that it has not just been with an outside ear, but it is a lesson that has been touching their inner ear and inner heart," Adams said.
Jonathan Fleming is one of those men who heard Saundra and Chancellor Lee speak in 2016. He was on probation after brutally beating his wife.
"I woke up to her with a black eye, broken nose and missing teeth," Fleming said.
He told Channel 9 that it was Saundra's words and Chancellor Lee's presence that made him change.
Channel 9 set up a surprise so Fleming could meet them and tell them of their impact on his life.
The reunion was raw and emotional. It also led to an intimate conversation.
"When you told me about your daughter, it broke me down inside," Fleming told Adams.
"We don't want to see you behind bars again," Adams replied.
"If I hadn't heard Ms. Adams speak, I'd probably be sitting in prison right now because I know how my temper is and I probably would have landed back over here again and would've probably been sent away," Fleming told Channel 9.
Fleming has not been arrested since that one incident and since the first time he heard from Adams and Chancellor Lee.
Fleming was reunited with his wife but admits that he still gets frustrated. However, now he calls his probation officer for help to talk things through.
Adams encouraged him to keep a positive attitude and to keep thinking things through from beginning to end so that he can always make good choices because nothing is worth his freedom.
"I am grateful to hear that Chancellor Lee and I have had such a major impact on someone," Adams said. "It gives me some satisfaction that our mission is being accomplished."
After their meeting, Fleming said he would be willing to go with Adams and Chancellor Lee to speak to others and try to change their hearts and minds.
Another important heart that Adams and Chancellor Lee hope to touch is his father, Carruth, who will be released from prison in October 2018.
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