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Cape woman charged with manslaughter in death of her sister

By Staff | Apr 14, 2011

A Cape Coral woman has been charged with manslaughter in a September traffic accident that killed her older sister.
Ruth McCarson Newman, 58, of 243 S.E. 45th St., was arrested Wednesday on a warrant and charged with homicide negligence manslaughter aggravated neglect elderly disabled adult in the death of Corliss McCarson Rhodes, 64.
Newman was booked into the Lee County Jail, where she remained Thursday on no bond. According to booking records, she has a court date set May 16.
On Sept. 23, Cape police responded to a report of a traffic crash at a home at 243 S.E. 45th St. Rhodes was found pinned between a 1984 GMC van and a palm tree, according to police officials. EMS pronounced her dead on scene.
An investigation revealed that Rhodes and Newman, along with another relative, had gone out to a night club, where they had all consumed alcohol. As Rhodes drove home, her sister became verbally and physically abusive.
Upon arriving in the driveway of the home on Southeast 45th Street, Newman continued to slap and strike Rhodes, according to police. She also refused to exit the van after Rhodes and the other relative asked her to.
Rhodes became frustrated and began to exit the van through the driver’s side door. Newman reportedly continued to swing her arms at her sister and reached over to the driver’s seat, grabbing for Rhodes as she tried to get out.
Newman then moved into the driver’s area and took control of the van, according to police. Her flailing arms knocked the gear shift from park into reverse and the van, which was still running, started to travel backward.
Rhodes became caught in the driver’s door as the other relative in the van attempted to take control of the vehicle from Newman. Newman reportedly began striking the other family member and the van kept moving backward.
At this point, Rhodes tried to press the brake pedal by hand as the vehicle continued to slowly travel backwards. While she was near the floorboard attempting to do this, the other relative still attempted to try to take control of the van.
Newman reportedly continued to slap and strike the other relative. In the struggle, the gas pedal was depressed and the vehicle accelerated. Rhodes was still partially out, reaching in and and trying to hit the brake by hand.
When the van accelerated backward, Rhodes was dragged along. She was pinned between the van and the palm tree when the vehicle collided into it. Newman was not injured in the accident nor was the other family member.
According to records from Lee Memorial Health System, Newman’s blood alcohol at the time of the incident was .164.
Cape detectives presented the case to the State Attorney’s Office, which then issued the arrest warrant Wednesday for Newman for manslaughter. She was located by authorities and taken into custody, according to police.
The other relative involved could not be reached for comment Thursday.