Early Monday morning, ex-NFL wide receiver Rae Carruth was released from Sampson Correctional Institution in Clinton, North Carolina. At the time of his arrest, he was 25. He's 44 today.

In 2001, Carruth, a former first-round pick at wideout for the Panthers, was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison for hiring Van Brett Watkins and Michael Kennedy to assassinate his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, two years before. At the time of her death, Adams was seven months pregnant. The child, Chancellor Lee Adams, survived. Due to his traumatic birth, when there was so little oxygen and blood that he came out looking blue, Chancellor was born with cerebral palsy. 

An initial diagnosis said he'd never be able to walk, or talk, or live anything resembling a normal life. But, he's a strong-willed kid and has developed a lot more than anyone could have predicted. "Chancellor is not just surviving," his grandmother, Saundra Adams told the Charlotte Observer three years ago when Chancellor was about to turn 16. "He is thriving." His stunning development is due mainly to Adams, who took him home from the hospital three weeks after her daughter Cherica took her final breath. "He’s able to feed himself some,” Adams says. “He’s able to dress himself with minimal assistance. And the biggest thing is he’s able to walk."

Carruth may have hired the men who killed Saundra's daughter and caused her grandson's brain damage, but—stunningly—she wants Rae to be a part of Chancellor's life when he's released. "The main reason I want Rae and Chancellor to one day have a relationship is because [Chancellor] is his son,” Adams said in 2015. "And that’s why I chose early on that I would forgive Rae. Because I don’t feel like I can offer unconditional love to Chancellor if I don’t forgive Rae. That’s his father. It’s a part of him. Chancellor wouldn’t be who he is without Rae. I want them to bond, or at least to meet again."

Carruth expressed a willingness to be a part of his son's life as well and even sought custody when he's released (thankfully, it was not granted). However, he wrote a 15-page handwritten letter to Saundra, that was delivered to Charlotte TV station WBTV, where he expressed his profound remorse and hoped to be given a chance with Chancellor.

"I'm apologizing for the loss of her daughter. I'm apologizing for the impairment of my son," Carruth told WBTV. "I feel responsible for everything that happened. And I just want her to know that truly I am sorry for everything."

If you're unfamiliar with the story behind Carruth's arrest and conviction, the Charlotte Observer published a seven-chapter story about the ordeal that stunned a city and shocked a country.