RAE CARRUTH EXCLUSIVE: 'I just truly want to be forgiven'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After nearly 19 years in prison, former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth is nearing the end of his sentence. Days ahead of his release, Carruth spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News to reflect on his time behind bars and how he feels about becoming a free man in a matter of days.

Carruth was sentenced to prison for planning the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams. Doctors managed to save their son, Chancellor Lee, but the trauma Cherica suffered before she died left the child with cerebral palsy.

Carruth spoke to anchor Erica Bryant by phone, telling her he had mixed emotions about getting out of Sampson Correctional Facility in Clinton, North Carolina.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Life After Death: Rae Carruth and the son who survived]

“I’m excited about just being out of here. I’m nervous just about how I’ll be received by the public,” said Carruth. “I still have to work. I still have to live. I have to exist out there and it just seems like there is so much hate and negativity toward me.”

Watch the video above to hear more of Erica Bryant’s conversation with Carruth as he talks about his son Chancellor Lee Adams and the relationship he’s hoping to have with him.

>> Remember, you can watch our Carruth special programming anytime at home on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

Rae Carruth will walk out of prison Monday in Sampson County, North Carolina, almost 19 years after the shooting that killed his girlfriend, severely injured his unborn son, and shook a community.

Cherica Adams was shot four times as she drove down Rea Road early on the morning of Nov. 16, 1999.

Related Rae Carruth coverage

She managed to call 911 and told the operator that her boyfriend -- and baby’s father, Rae Carruth -- was driving in front of her and had slowed down before the shooting.

Det. Darrell Price questioned Carruth later that morning at the hospital, but said he denied being involved.

[TIMELINE: Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth]

“I feel certain he thought we would never solve that case,” Price said. “Because cases are hard to solve without a crime scene. They're very difficult without a crime scene. And we had very little to work with. Our crime scene was her body.”

Adams died four weeks later, and police relied on cell phone evidence -- which back then was new technology -- to make their case against Carruth.

Carruth claimed he had nothing to do with the shooting, but two of his co-defendants, including the man who admitted firing the fatal shots, told the jury at his trial a year later that Carruth had wanted Adams killed because he didn’t want to pay child support.

The jury found Carruth guilty of conspiracy to kill Adams but not guilty of her actual murder.

We will have live team coverage at Sampson Correctional Facility in Clinton, North Carolina leading up to Rae Carruth's release from prison, on Eyewitness News Daybreak.

It was a verdict that puzzled many, including the man who led the prosecution team, Gentry Caudill.

“I guess the question is, who's the more culpable? The mastermind behind the whole thing or the shooter?” said Caudill. “Take Rae Carruth out of the picture and Cherica Adams is alive today.”

Carruth’s trial, and the investigation before it, were full of surprising twists and turns. And all these years later, many in Charlotte still haven’t forgotten them.

The "Follow the Lead" news app feature allows users to opt-in to follow future coverage of specific news events that they’re interested in.

This new feature allows you to receive push notifications whenever there are new developments in ongoing stories, breaking news, and stories that are of interest to you. 

Stories that are followable have tappable tags associated with them. To follow the latest on a topic you are interested in, click the blue tag indicated with a "+" followed by the name.

Carruth’s and Adams's son who survived the shooting will turn 19 next month.

Chancellor Lee Adams has challenges because the shooting deprived him of oxygen before he was born. As a result, he lives with cerebral palsy.

His grandmother, Saundra Adams, has raised him since birth and said he's a strong, happy young man.

“I never fill his mind with disability,” she said. “He's abled differently and I don't focus on what he can't do, but what he can do.”

Saundra Adams said she knows she won't always be around to take care of Chancellor, but has a plan in place for family members to care for him someday when she's no longer able.

Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com: