Months after professor’s fatal fall on cruise ship, Kansas man is charged with murder

Eric Newman, 53, of Topeka, Kansas
Eric Newman, 53, of Topeka, Kansas Shawnee County Department of Corrections

A Kansas man has been charged in federal court with killing a woman earlier this year aboard a Carnival cruise ship, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Eric Newman, 53, of Topeka, Kan., was indicted for second-degree murder. The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that Newman is accused of killing his wife, who was identified in court records as Tamara Tucker, 50, of Lawson, Mo.

The indictment said Newman was traveling with Tucker on board a cruise ship called the Carnival Elation on Jan. 19. The ship was scheduled to depart from, and later return to, Jacksonville, Fla.

Court records didn’t specify Tucker’s cause of death, though a statement from a Carnival Cruise Line spokesman said a woman aboard the Carnival Elation on Jan. 19 “fell from her balcony to several decks below” and died.

The statement said the ship had departed Jacksonville on Jan. 18 on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas.

At the time, a representative of the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Central Detective Unit told The Miami Herald an American man was cooperating with authorities in the investigation.

By February, The Freeport News said authorities identified the woman as Tucker, and the investigation was turned over to the FBI.

An obituary indicated Tucker died two days after her 50th birthday. She had one adult son and had been a professor of social work at Park University for 10 years. Before that, Tucker served as a program director of the Child Abuse Prevention Association in the Kansas City area.

After her death, the university released a brief statement on Facebook sending its thoughts and prayers to her family.

Tucker’s obituary said she was survived by her son, family members in Lawson and in Orlando, Fla., and by Newman, described as her “partner and longtime love.”

Newman made his first court appearance Thursday. The same day, the indictment laying out the murder charge against him was unsealed by a judge.

A detention hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Reporter Tony Rizzo contributed to this report.