- Associated Press - Thursday, December 19, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend by strangling her then pushing her over a balcony on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida last year, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Eric Duane Newman, 55, of Topeka, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the January 2018 death of his longtime girlfriend, Tamara Tucker, 50, of Lawson, Missouri, the Department of Justice said in a news release.

The couple was on a Carnival cruise from Jacksonville, Florida, to the Bahamas and was staying in a cabin on the 13th deck. Newman admitted during his plea hearing in federal court in Kansas that the couple argued in their cabin. He said he strangled Tucker then pushed her over the cabin room balcony railing to the 11th deck. Tucker died from blunt force trauma caused by the fall.

At the time, the cruise ship was about 30 nautical miles (55 kilometers) from New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Sentencing was scheduled for March 18, 2020.

Tucker was a full-time faculty member in the social work department at Park University in Parkville, Missouri, from 2012 to 2017. She was an adjunct instructor before that, beginning in 2007.

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