At age 12, Chancellor Lee Adams can barely speak, is mostly confined to a wheelchair and can’t feed himself. He’ll always be severely disabled because before he was born his father, then-Panthers receiver Rae Carruth, hired two people to murder the unborn Chancellor and his mother, Cherica Adams, so that Carruth wouldn’t have to pay child support.
It’s a horrifying story, except that as the story is told in this week’s Sports Illustrated, it’s actually a touching story about the loving way Chancellor has been raised by his grandmother, and the forgiveness that Chancellor’s grandmother has shown toward Carruth, who is in prison for conspiracy to commit murder and is expected to be released in about six years.
The full Sports Illustrated story isn’t online, but its author, Thomas Lake, writes in a piece at SI.com that Chancellor, despite his severe disabilities, is an astonishingly happy boy who has been well cared for by his grandmother, Saundra Adams.
“He is the happiest person I’ve ever met,” Lake writes. “There’s a light inside him that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I’ve talked to several other people about his effect on me, and they say it happened to them too. Wherever he goes — to church, to physical therapy, to the Special Olympics — he makes people feel better by his mere presence. When he looks into your eyes and says hello, the whole thing feels almost spiritual. And then, of course, you have to ask yourself: If a kid like this can be so happy, what right do I have to complain?”
Saundra thought her days of raising babies were over, and she certainly never thought she’d be feeding and changing a severely disabled boy for years, but instead of seeing Chancellor as a burden, she has seen him as a blessing. Instead of being angry that Carruth murdered her daughter in an attempt to ensure Chancellor would never be born, she says she is genuinely grateful for Carruth, because without Carruth there would be no Chancellor.
“I’m not gonna have anything negative to say about him,” Saundra says of Carruth. “I thank him for my grandson. I thank him for my grandson. . . . Like I say, you can focus on what you’ve lost or what you have left. So I didn’t lose. I have my grandson. I have my daughter with me in my heart, always.”
Chancellor’s grandma doesn’t want to burden him with hatred of his father, so she avoids explaining to him exactly what caused his disabilities, and why he has never had a mother.
“Well, he knows that Mommy was killed, and that Daddy did, you know, Daddy did a baaad thing. And he’s in jail right now paying for the bad thing that he did. And we just say that he, you know, he made a mistake,” Saundra says.
Despite Saundra’s forgiveness, it’s hard to read the story and not conclude that Carruth is a despicable human being. In fact, before he arranged for the killing of Cherica Adams, Carruth had another son he was refusing to support, and the Sports Illustrated story reveals that when the mother of that son came to Carruth with an offer to cut the support he had been ordered to pay in half if he would agree to do things like call their son on his birthday, Carruth replied that she shouldn’t be surprised if she got into a fatal car accident.
For Chancellor to be born to a father like Rae Carruth, with a mother who died shortly after his birth, and with disabilities that would make it impossible to live a normal life, and for Chancellor to still be described by the writer who chronicled his life as “the happiest person I’ve ever met,” is truly remarkable. It’s amazing that Thomas Lake set out to tell the story of the Rae Carruth case and found a story with a happy ending.