CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chancellor Lee Adams is turning 10 and he is full of joy and happiness. His grandmother says his eyes and his smile are his ministry and he shares them wherever he goes. His life is so different than the tragic circumstances surrounding his birth.
He was born by emergency C-section to Cherica Adams soon after she was shot along Rea Road in Charlotte on Nov. 16, 1999. She would die a month later. And Chancellor's father, former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth, would eventually be convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. He is currently serving a 19-year sentence in the Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina.
Chancellor suffers from cerebral palsy and must undergo weekly therapy sessions. He's made tremendous progress over the years, learning to speak and is now able to walk as many as 100 steps on his own.
"I try to instill lots of positive affirmations, number one," said Saundra Adams, Cherica's mother. "I want Chancellor to know above everything else that he is loved. No matter who is in his life, who may not be in his life, but he is loved unconditionally."
Saundra Adams says she hasn't heard from Rae Carruth in years ever since his legal appeals were exhausted. And he has continued to maintain that he had no part in her daughter's death.
"I really was stuck on that for a while. I really wanted him to tell me he was sorry but, you know, I really don’t even need that anymore. God has matured me to a different level that it doesn’t matter whether he says that or not," Adams said.
There were three others convicted in the murder case. Adams says the only one she believes is truly remorseful is Van Brett Watkins. He's the man who is serving 40 to 50 years. Watkins fired the shots that killed her daughter. He's sent her several letters from prison, some even including $5 or $10 to try and help out with the care of Chancellor.
"I’m not excusing the fact that he pulled that trigger and shot my daughter in cold blood the way he did. It’s not saying that it’s not justice for him to be serving time because it is. Because he took my daughter’s life, because it was a horrific thing that he did but he didn’t personally know my daughter. And I believe if he had been contracted to kill me he would have. It was about the money. It could have been anybody. It was no personal feelings toward Cherica," Adams said.
Van Brett Watkins is serving his sentence at Maury Correctional Institution. The last 10 years have been difficult -- 28 infractions have landed him in solitary confinement over and over again. Many of the infractions were for fighting. But physically, he says, he is not the man he used to be. He suffers from osteoarthritis and degenerative hip disease.
"I ask for forgiveness for all the people. Everyday I review my life. Every day I ask for forgiveness now," Watkins said.
He's found peace and appreciates the forgiveness of Saundra Adams.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Lee Adams is living a life fuller than what doctors told his grandmother, and he's spreading joy to all who know him. His physical therapist from Child and Family Development, Amy Sturkey, sums it up this way.
"One of the things I want to say about Lee is that I believe his mom died loving him, and I think that love sings through him everywhere he goes ," she said. "When you meet Lee, you feel the love."