CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It is a perfect day for a party.
Chancellor Lee Adams is surrounded by family, church members, caregivers, teachers, classmates and friends to celebrate his 16th birthday.
It is a milestone even more significant because a murder plot orchestrated by his father, former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, killed his mother, Cherica, while Chancellor was still in the womb, and it was meant to kill him, too.
Deprived of oxygen in the hours after the shooting, Chancellor was born with cerebral palsy.
He is being raised by his maternal grandmother, Saundra Adams.
She wanted to share this special moment with the community that has prayed for and supported him all of these years. So, for the first time, they exclusively allowed Eyewitness News cameras into their home.
- CLICK PLAY: Chancellor Adams performs a magic trick
Chancellor's artwork is on the wall, along with pictures of Cherica, who he calls “Mommy Angel.”
"I can just look at him sometimes and it's almost like I’m looking at Cherica," Saundra Adams said.
By all accounts, Saundra Adams is raising her grandson the way her daughter would have wanted.
She says Chancellor is a typical teenager who enjoys activities like horseback riding, bowling and dancing. He is also excelling in school and is on the A/B honor roll.
Saundra Adams sees a bright future for her grandson.
"I see him already in his calling actually going out and speaking to groups of people about not being bitter and getting better, and about forgiveness," Saundra Adams said. "He is also an example of how you can thrive through forgiving others."
Saundra and Chancellor Adams travel to speaking engagements throughout the year. October and November are the busiest times. They speak about bullying and domestic violence, but there is always one major theme.
“Chancellor's life is a message to many of the young people today and older ones of unconditional, unconditional love,” Saundra Adams said.
Saundra Adams hopes to one day form nonprofit with Carruth
Now 16 years old, Chancellor has grown taller and stronger.
Chancellor was just a year old the last time he saw Carruth.
Saundra Adams said back then, it was tough to agree to Carruth seeing Chancellor.
“But then I would be just like other people playing God, and I can't play God. My job is to forgive and be genuine in the forgiving,” Adams said.
Carruth will be released from prison in three years.
Saundra Adams is trying to help Chancellor understand what happened as best she can.
“My thoughts are stronger now than ever before about Chancellor Lee meeting his father,” she said.
“I never want Chancellor to think that there is any part of him that is bad - so his dad can't be bad, he did a bad thing,” she said.
”Chancellor brings life, warmth and joy to everybody that he meets and I want his father to experience that as well,” Saundra said.
- CLICK PLAY: Chancellor brings life, warmth and joy
Hundreds have experienced their message, which Adams said is about being better-not bitter.
Saundra and Chancellor have attended many speaking engagements over the years.
She hopes one day to form a nonprofit continuing the work with a new addition.
“What my biggest hope is that his father would join along with us because I think we would truly touch the world with the ministry of forgiveness,” Saundra Adams said.
Read our past coverage:
- Nov. 12, 2014:15 years later: Rae Carruth's teenage son
- July 20, 2011: Driver in Carruth murder case released from prison
- May 25, 2011: Ex-Panther’s Son Moving Forward After Mother’s Murder
- February 16, 2011:Appeals Court Rejects New Trial For Former Panthers Player Carruth
- February 15, 2011: Appeals court rejects new trial for former Panther
- October 6, 2010:Former Panthers Player Carruth Appeals Conviction
- March 21, 2005:Ex-Panther Loses Bid To Get New Trial
- March 10, 2005:Rae Carruth And Mother Visit In Jail
- March 10, 2005:Former Carolina Panther Wants New Trial
- March 10, 2005:Rae Carruth Returns To Mecklenburg County Court This Morning
- May 11, 2004:Theodry Carruth Denied Visitation Rights For Grandson
- February 5, 2003: Van Brett Watkins: A Killer Speaks Out
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