CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A man who had spent two decades in prison for firing the shots in a plot by then-Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth to kill Carruth's pregnant girlfriend has died.

Van Brett Watkins died on Dec. 3 at age 63, according to online prisoner records from the state Department of Adult Correction. Watkins, who had been at Central Prison in Raleigh, died at a hospital from natural causes, department spokesperson Keith Acree said.

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Watkins, whose death was first reported by Charlotte television stations, received more than 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to his role in Carruth's effort to kill Cherica Adams in 1999. He was sentenced for second-degree murder, conspiracy and other charges. His projected prison release date had been in 2045, the correction records show.

Watkins fired the shots and another man drove the car. They pleaded guilty in exchange for testimony that Carruth paid Watkins to kill Adams and her baby.

Adams was shot in her car as she drove away from a shopping center. She died weeks later. Her son was born by emergency Caesarean section with disabilities and was raised by Adams' mother.

Carruth, a wide receiver for the Panthers from 1997 to 1999, was acquitted of first-degree murder but convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other charges. He was sentenced from 18 to 24 years in prison and released in 2018.