Death Row Inmate Free after Nearly 17 Years in Prison

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A Death Row inmate is free after spending nearly 17 years behind bars. 

Rickey D. Newman had his charges dropped on Wednesday afternoon, according to Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Fields. 

Fields said Newman walked free after 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

Newman was originally arrested on charges of capital murder, following the killing of a woman, according to records from the Van Buren Police and the Crawford County Circuit Court. 

The records show that Newman, who was a transient rail rider, killed a woman named Marie Cholette at a wooded camp in the vicinity of Lee Creek Park.  

Cholette's body was discovered in a tent in the woods. She had sustained several lacerations and stab wounds to her chest, as well as a deep slit in her neck, according to the medical examiner who responded to the scene. 

Records show Cholette had been the victim of severe mutilation while she was still alive. Several parts of her body were missing, including half of her liver, which was absent from the crime scene.  

Following Newman's arrest, records show he sometimes maintained his innocence and would then recant. At one point, he wrote to the circuit court and prosecuting attorney, "insisting he receive the death penalty," according to the records. 

Newman sometimes said he did not kill Cholette. He claimed it was his alter-ego, known on the rails as "Seaco."

In a statement Newman made to police in May of 2002, he said he had drugged Cholette and "sacrificed her," according to the documents.  

Newman confessed to killing Cholette in front of members of the jury. In June of 2002, Newman elected to testify in front of a jury, remarking, "I went across the bridge and I bought her alcohol. I drugged her up. I got her drunk, and I killed her." 

Newman was released Oct. 11 after the State Supreme Court ruled Newman's taped confessions could not be used, due to mental defects. 


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