Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was released from prison after serving almost 18 years for conspiring to murder his Cherica Adams.

Carruth walked out Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina on Monday morning around 8 a.m., according to ESPN. He did not speak to reporters and left in a white SUV. He will be on a release program for 9 months that requires him to check in with a case worker and ask for permission to travel out of state or out of the country. Carruth will be free to do as he pleases after he completes the program.

Carruth was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in 2001 for hiring a hitman to shoot Adams, his on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Adams was following Carruth to his house in November 1999 when a car pulled up next to her BMW. Carruth slowed down to box her in and gunman Van Brett Watkins shot her four times. Adams was eight months pregnant at the time and summoned enough strength to call 911. She died from her injuries four weeks later.

The couple’s son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered via emergency c-section hours after the shooting. He survived, but ended up with brain damage and cerebral palsy because he was deprived of oxygen for 70 minutes after his mother was shot. Chancellor, now 18, was raised by his maternal grandmother, Saundra Adams.

Carruth claimed he had nothing to do with the shooting and his defense team argued Cherica was shot due to a drug deal gone bad.

Carruth said hopes to put that sordid past behind him and hopes the community can forgive him.

“I’m excited about just being out of here. I’m nervous just about how I’ll be received by the public,” Carruth told WSOC. “I still have to work. I still have to live. I have to exist out there and it just seems like there is so much hate and negativity toward me.”

The 44-year-old hopes to have a relationship with his son and even once said he wanted custody of the boy. He has since recanted that statement, but told WSOC he's sad he never got to meet Chancellor while incarcerated.

“I was really looking forward to the opportunity to see my son — to touch him, to hug him, to kiss him,” Carruth said. “All these things I’ve never had the opportunity to do. And I wanted to apologize to him in person for all that he’s been through.”

Saundra Adams once said she would be waiting outside with Chancellor when Carruth was released, but she changed her mind. She told The Charlotte Observer she isn’t completely against a relationship with Carruth, but made it clear she doesn’t have high hopes for redeveloping ties. Nevertheless, she said she has worked on forgiveness.

“I want to forgive him so that I can move on and enjoy the fruits of my labor and enjoy my life,” Adams said. “Because if I’m sitting around in unforgiveness, it’s like me drinking poison and hoping he’s going to die.”

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