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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

Man who disregarded pleas of dying woman gets 4 years

Derrancie McNeal's own words during a fight last summer with a dying asthmatic woman came back to haunt him at his sentencing yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

As he struggled with Stephanie Marie Autman, 37, in a central-city park on Aug. 15, she told him she couldn't breathe and she was dying.

Witnesses on a nearby porch said they heard McNeal tell Ms. Autman: "What are you waiting for? Go ahead and die."

Judge Ruth Ann Franks reiterated those words to McNeal in sentencing him to prison for four years for involuntary manslaughter.

Judge Franks said the 25-year-old defendant, who lost the use of his legs in an automobile accident and uses a wheelchair, should have been compassionate with the situation of someone who was in despair, but instead continued to punch the victim in the head and back.

Ms. Autman "had the right to believe that another man who had a disability would recognize that and get off of her, " Judge Franks said.

McNeal of 827 Hoag St. told police he thought the woman's plea was a ruse. He got back into his wheelchair, left the park in the 1000 block of Indiana Avenue, and called 911 operators so Ms. Autman could receive medical assistance.

McNeal was indicted for murder, but prosecutors reduced the charge, in part, because an autopsy showed that Ms. Autman of 1130 North Huron St. had an extremely enlarged heart, causing her death in the struggle.

Ms. Autman's younger sister, Crystal Autman, said the victim cared for her and her siblings after their father killed their mother. "Stephanie stepped up and made sure we would go on," Crystal Autman said.

After Ms. Autman was found, McNeal admitted to police they fought in the park when he accused her of taking $200 from his backpack. The money was not found on the victim.

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