Jacksonville, Florida - A Kansas man pleaded guilty Thursday to murdering his longtime girlfriend during a cruise from Florida to the Bahamas in January 2018.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Stephen R. McAllister of the District of Kansas and Special Agent in Charge Rachel L. Rojas of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office made the announcement.

Eric Duane Newman, 55, of Topeka, Kansas, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Julie A. Robinson of the District of Kansas to one count of murder in the second degree for killing Tamara Tucker with malice aforethought.

According to the admissions made in connection with the plea, Newman and Tucker boarded the Carnival Elation cruise ship on Jan. 18, 2019, in Jacksonville, Florida, to take a round-trip voyage to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.  Newman and Tucker were staying together in a cabin room on the 13th deck of the cruise ship.

Before midnight on Jan. 18, Newman became involved in a verbal argument with Tucker inside their cabin room.  At approximately 12:15 a.m. on Jan. 19, Newman physically attacked Tucker, and strangled her by placing both of his hands around her neck.  In the process of strangling her, Newman pushed Tucker over the cabin room balcony railing causing her to fall to her death onto the 11th deck.  Ms. Tucker died from blunt force trauma as a result of the fall.  At the time, the cruise ship was sailing on the high seas in international water, approximately 30 nautical miles from New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Sentencing has been scheduled for March 18, 2020, before Chief U.S. District Judge Julie A. Robinson.

The FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office conducted the investigation with the assistance of the FBI’s Topeka Field Office. Trial Attorney Rami S. Badawy of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine E. Kenney of the District of Kansas are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Office of the Attorney General also provided assistance.