Nationwide manhunt for footballer

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The Independent Online

Police launched a search across America today for a professional football player wanted on a murder charge in the shooting dead of his girlfriend.

Police launched a search across America today for a professional football player wanted on a murder charge in the shooting dead of his girlfriend.

If convicted, Rae Carruth of the Carolina Panthers could be sentenced to death or sent to prison for life.

Police today notified law enforcement agencies across America to watch for Carruth. The player's name was entered in the FBI's national computer, which links the bureau to state and local police.

"If he is found, they have the authority to hold him until they contact us," Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Keith Bridges said.

Carruth's lawyer, George Laughrun, said today that he did not know where his client was and had not heard from him since Tuesday night. At that time, Laughrun advised Carruth to surrender.

"He was supposed to call me at 11 o'clock last night," Laughrun said. "He never did. I have no idea where he is."

Until Cherica Adams died on Tuesday, Carruth and three other men faced charges of conspiracy, attempted murder and related charges in the November 16 shooting. Carruth was free on $3 million bail. All four now face first-degree murder charges and can be held without bail.

Carruth's mother, Theodry Carruth, promised late on Tuesday that her son would turn himself in. Police are searching for Carruth throughout Charlotte.

"He's scared, and people have to know that," she said in a news conference from her Sacramento, California, home. "He doesn't know what's going to happen to him."

Charlotte TV stations reported that police staked out Carruth's Charlotte home and had even searched inside.

"The entire situation is extremely tragic and very troubling," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Adams, 24, died surrounded by family at Carolinas Medical Center. She was 6 1/2 months' pregnant when she was shot four times in the neck and chest from a passing vehicle as she drove through a Charlotte neighbourhood, forcing an emergency delivery of her baby boy.

Carruth was in a car near where Adams was shot, and the three other men were in a separate vehicle, prosecutors said. They are accused of being in contact by cell phone.

Two other defendants - Michael Eugene Kennedy, 24, and Stanley Drew "Boss" Abraham, 19 - were both served with first-degree murder warrants in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg jail and were being held without bond today. William Edward Watkins, 44, held in jail under a $2.5 million bail, had not yet been served with the murder warrant this morning, officials said.

The condition of the baby, Chancellor Lee Adams, has improved since the shooting. He was moved out of a neonatal intensive care nursery earlier this month.

The Panthers were leaving the practice field on Tuesday when they were told of Adams' death.

"It's the worst, worst possible scenario and news any of us could have ever thought of," quarterback Steve Beuerlein said. "Our hearts in the Panthers' organization go out to the family."

Coach George Seifert offered a similar sentiment.

"We're just hopeful that the baby does well," he said.

Carruth, 25, was the Panthers' first-round draft choice in 1997. After the shooting, the wide receiver was placed on unpaid leave.