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© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000

Carruth witness describes shooting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The man who says he was hired by Rae Carruth to kill the NFL player's pregnant girlfriend described Thursday how he pulled the trigger five times and listened to the gurgling sound of the victim "drowning in her own blood."

Later, wiping away tears, the witness swore at Carruth, stood up in the witness box and shouted across the courtroom: "Are you happy now?!"

During his second day of testimony at the former Carolina Panther's murder trial, Van Brett Watkins said he was in the back seat of a car that pulled alongside Cherica Adams' BMW last year. Carruth, he said, blocked her path with his vehicle and watched the attack in the rearview mirror.

"I fired one shot, then four more shots: bam, bam, bam, bam," Watkins said in a monotone. "She was screaming. She was drowning in her own blood. You could hear a gurgling sound."

Carruth, 26, could get the death penalty if convicted of plotting Adams' shooting. She died a month later, after Carruth's son was born.

Watkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, avoiding a possible death sentence. He had agreed to testify for the prosecution, but was instead called to the stand by Carruth's defense, trying to shore up its contention that Watkins shot Adams on his own.

Instead, Watkins reiterated that Carruth paid him to kill Adams.

"He hired me as a hit man," he testified. "He hired me to kill Cherica Adams and the baby. ... I couldn't bring myself to kill the baby. I shot at the top (of the car), not through the door."

Watkins told jurors he was "petrified" of Carruth.

"If he would kill his own girl and their baby, what would he do to me?" he said.

Watkins said Carruth wanted him to take Adams' belongings after she was shot to make the attack look like a robbery. Watkins said he then went home and got drunk.

His testimony was stopped briefly when Watkins, growing increasingly tearful, swore at Carruth. After the judge sent the jury out for a break, Watkins stood up and shouted at Carruth, "Are you happy now?"

BRONCOS: The 49ers seem to be playing right into Bill Romanowski's hands.

A weeklong war of words between the irascible linebacker and the 49ers' J.J. Stokes and Garrison Hearst continued after Hearst called Romanowski a "racist dope pusher."

Shrugging off the characterization, Romanowski attacked Hearst's standing -- or lack thereof -- in the NFL. Hearst has been sidelined by a severe ankle injury the past two seasons.

"Garrison Hearst? I don't even know who he is," Romanowski said. "Has he even played? I mean he's jawing and saying all that in the paper. That's the last of my worries."

The feud stems from an infamous confrontation three years ago when Romanowski spit in Stokes' face during a nationally televised Monday night game. Vilified in the days following the game, Romanowski offered an apology and the teams played a preseason game without incident on Aug. 25.

Asked again this week about his regrettable night in San Francisco, Romanowski rekindled the rivalry when he said Stokes has "no fight in him. If somebody did that to me, they'd have to throw me out of the game, because I'd go after him."

Quarterback Brian Griese, meanwhile, was officially cleared to start after missing five games with a separated right shoulder.

CHARGERS: Linebacker Junior Seau was fined $7,500 by the league for a hit against Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein. Seau was fined because it was a helmet-to-helmet hit, NFL spokeswoman Leslie Hammond said.

Seau, heading to his 10th straight Pro Bowl, was fined on the same day his teammates voted him Chargers MVP for the fourth straight year and fifth overall. He is second on the team with 115 tackles, has 2 interceptions and 3 1/2 sacks.

COWBOYS: Quarterback Randall Cunningham is willing to play for another year, only if the team doesn't start rebuilding and releasing veterans. Amid lingering questions about quarterback Troy Aikman's durability, Cunningham, 37, could continue to back up Aikman, be forced into the starting role if Aikman retires or could back up second-year quarterback Anthony Wright. Aikman has suffered two concussions this season.

JAGUARS: Receiver Keenan McCardell missed his second straight day of practice with a bruised left knee. He remained questionable for Saturday's game against the Giants.

PATRIOTS: In Terry Glenn's opinion, he and Troy Brown were practicing the team unity that coach Bill Belichick stresses when they missed a flight home early Monday -- and the Patriots' team meeting -- in order to wait for teammate Ty Law, who had been detained by U.S. Customs officials for drug possession.

"Even if Ty had come back Monday night or Tuesday, we wouldn't have left him behind," Glenn said in an interview with the Boston Globe Thursday, the first time he spoke publicly about the incident. "Whether it means being fined for missing a meeting or not, we knew, once we lost track of Ty, the situation wasn't going to be good. We waited until we knew that Ty was all right before we all left back to Boston."

The team suspended Law after he was caught at the Canadian border with the drug ecstasy. Law, who says the drugs weren't his, paid a $700 fine.

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