Crime doesn't pay but it does fascinate. That could be the thought that drove the creators of "Celebrity Crime Files" (10 tonight, TV One), a well-crafted, eight-episode docu-series that explores crimes featuring prominent people.
The first episode explores the Charlotte-based story of Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panther who conspired to murder his pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams.
Like other shows of this ilk, "Celebrity Crime Files" uses re-enactments, talking heads and some folks involved with the case to discuss the events. Two Charlotte Observer reporters give their perspectives; one of Carruth's defense lawyers weighs in, as do the prosecutors. So does Van Brett Watkins, the confessed gunman who testified against Carruth.
Although I remember the case, I didn't follow it closely. If you're like me, or the events have grown fuzzy with time, you'll find that the show does a good job giving background on Carruth and Adams, examining the impact on the city and culture, and laying out the elements of the case. As is pointed out by one observer, this all happened before ESPN and TMZ, when bad behavior by athletes was still a bit of a surprise.
Best of all, the show brings Adams to life, far beyond the description of 'victim.' Her brother Jeff Lucky, now a rapper and filmmaker, and her sister Janalyn Walton appear and give viewers a greater sense of Adams' stolen promise and the scope of their family's loss. Chancellor Adams, her son who survived and is being raised by his maternal grandmother, is mentioned briefly and lovingly.
There's one thing the series can not do, and that's explain why Carruth, felt murder was his best option. (Lucky speaks movingly about the futility of 'why.') This was a guy who was so charmed and beloved, he got an 18-year sentence, while Watkins got 40 years. Somewhere along the way, it's suggested, the man raised by a strong loving single mother, learned to hate women. He seemed to find them disposable. Carruth is due to be released from prison in 2018.
Future episodes of "Celebrity Crime Files" will feature the stories of Marvin Gaye, Jam Master Jay, Donald Goines and Peter Tosh.