We expect a lot from our athletic heroes, which isn’t really fair. Underneath their astounding physical abilities, they’re just people, with all the faults and foibles that entails. And they sometimes get in trouble with the law. It’s pretty common that athletes get busted for partying too hard or using an illegal substance or two, so we won’t be dealing with them here. This article is for pro athletes who really crossed a line and committed a major crime. Are you ready to play ball with the justice system?
Rae Carruth, Murder, 1999
When a man finds out he’s going to be a father, a lot of emotions go through his head. Thankfully, homicidal rage isn’t typically one of them. But for Rae Carruth, a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, news that he had a little one on the way wasn’t well-received. So, when his babymomma Cherica Adams was shot outside his home, it was shocking that the crime was traced back to Carruth. The demented athlete had paid a friend to murder her, and both Adams and the baby died in the hospital. She was alive long enough to identify the shooters. Carruth skipped bail, but was caught by cops hiding in the trunk of a car. He’s currently serving 18 to 24 years in prison.
Darryl Henley, Cocaine Trafficking and Attempted Murder, 1995
The Los Angeles Rams thought they got a pretty good deal when they drafted cornerback Daryl Henley fresh out of UCLA. A good kid with a finance degree, from a good family, Henley played for the team for five years, performing ably on the field, but late nights got him involved with a bad crowd and Darryl started enjoying the easy money that the cocaine trade had to offer.
Henley started running a drug ring out of his Brea, California, home — using cheerleaders to transport suitcases of drugs. He was busted and, despite a tough legal defense, given 21 years in jail. He didn’t learn his lesson, though, and from inside jail tried to set up a hit on the judge who sentenced him, for which he was given another twenty years.
Mark Rogowski, Rape and Murder, 1991
It’s not just team sports that breed criminals. One of the most shocking tales in the pro skateboarding world is the story of Mark “Gator” Rogowski. Gator was a pro skater by the age of fourteen, winning competitions around the world and getting endorsement deals. He was one of the biggest names of the 1980s skate scene, but during the '90s his fortunes started to wane and he hit the skids in San Diego, becoming a severe alcoholic.
One night in 1991, Jessica Bergstein, an old female friend, paid him a visit. A drunken Rogowski took her home, hit her in the back of the head with a metal pole, and raped her before stuffing her body in a surfboard bag and suffocating her. A few weeks later, he confessed the murder to a friend and turned himself in to the police.
Robert Rozier, Murder, 1986
When you’re no longer in the big leagues, it can be hard to find your way. But most former athletes don’t become cultist serial killers. Meet Robert Rozier, a former defensive end for the St. Louis Cardinals. Rozier only played a half-dozen games for the Cards before being cut loose for drug issues, and from there he spiraled into a life of crime that eventually saw him join “The Brotherhood,” a religious group run by a man named Yahweh ben Yahweh.
To become a full-fledged member, you needed to kill a “white devil,” and Rozier did so with aplomb, murdering seven people with a knife in Miami over the next two years. Amazingly enough, Rozier managed to get out of jail after serving only ten years of his sentence because he gave police information about ben Yahweh’s organization. He entered witness protection, but is currently back in jail for forging checks.
Adonis Stevenson, Prostitution, Assault, 1998
Haitian-born boxer Adonis Stevenson has kept his nose clean since starting his professional career, but in his younger days he certainly got into some trouble. In November of 1998, Canadian police took him in for his involvement in a prostitution ring that was absolutely out of control. Stevenson and his cohorts would hunt up underage girls and turn them out, making them have sex with paying customers and taking the money.
If they got out of line, he’d use his powerful fists to knock them around a little bit. For laughs, he’d even make the girls box each other. He spent four years in jail, and when he got out turned his life around completely. Good for him, we guess.
O.J. Simpson, Robbery and Kidnapping, 2007
Okay, yes, O.J. Simpson probably did murder his wife and her lover back in the day, but a courtroom circus has made us unable to include him on this list. Thankfully, the Hall of Famer couldn’t keep out of trouble, and in 2007 he embarked upon a totally new criminal adventure.
The same day that “If I Did It,” the book Simpson wrote about the murder he probably did, was released, O.J. and a crew of guys broke into a room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas and held the man inside at gunpoint, claiming that he’d stolen sports memorabilia. Cops brought him in and charged him with robbery and kidnapping (because he kept the man against his will) and he got up to 33 years in prison. Hope it was worth it!
Eddie Johnson, Child Molestation, 2006
“Fast” Eddie Johnson was a 49th-round draft pick for the Atlanta Hawks in 1977, and although local fans took to him on the court, he never was able to bring his team to the championships. After a decade in the NBA, he was forced out due to his drug problems. After leaving the world of pro sports, Johnson let his darker side take over.
He moved to Florida and was arrested for over 100 offenses, most of them relating to drug usage. But it wasn’t just nose candy that made Eddie run — he also had an eye for very young ladies: In 2006, he was arrested for sexual molestation and battery of an eight-year-old girl. He was convicted in 2008 and given a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Bertil Fox, Murder, 1997
We’re going to consider competitive bodybuilding a sport here, so save your complaints until the end. Bertil Fox was a champion of the muscular arts, achieving a density that few bodybuilders have been able to. He won Junior Mr. Britain at the age of 18 and went on to win dozens of other titles in England before relocating to Los Angeles to compete.
After he left competition, he moved back to his native St. Kitts to open a gym. But one of the things that makes bodybuilders so huge is human growth hormone, which can have serious effects on the brain. One day, Fox walked into the dress store that his mother-in-law owned.
The two got into an argument and Fox pulled out a pistol and murdered both his wife and her mother. He originally tried to claim it was an accident but was sentenced to death by hanging. In 2002, his sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Clifford Etienne, Attempted Murder, Robbery, etc., 2005
The boxing career of Clifford Etienne began in prison, so it’s only proper that it would end there too. The Louisiana-born pugilist started studying the sweet science in prison on a 40-year armed robbery stint, but his performance on the prison boxing team and good behavior earned him early release. He turned pro soon after and was named the “Most Exciting Fighter To Watch” in 2000 by "The Ring" magazine.
His career looked good until a 2003 fight with Mike Tyson, who knocked Etienne out in just 43 seconds. After his last pro fight in 2005, Etienne got totally wrecked on cocaine in Baton Rouge, carjacked a family’s vehicle, robbed a check-cashing business and tried to shoot two policemen. He got 150 years in prison for that little night out.
Next: When Sports Go Horribly Wrong
Wolfgang Schwartz, Kidnapping, Human Trafficking, 2006
You wouldn’t think that a wussy sport like figure skating would produce a serious criminal (well, except for Tonya Harding), but here’s a chilling tale of a total douchebag. Wolfgang Schwartz was born in Vienna and took home a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble. Once you’ve reached the highest peak in a sport, there’s nowhere to go but down, and after retiring from competition, Wolfgang pursued a second career as a procurer of prostitutes for brothels in Vienna.
Schwartz traveled to Russia and Lithuania to bring back girls, but in 2002 he was caught in the act and given a brief prison sentence which was postponed so he could get treatment for skin cancer. He didn’t learn his lesson, though, as in 2008 he tried to kidnap the daughter of a Romanian businessman and hold her for ransom. This time he got tossed in jail, cancer or no.