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Neal Zumberge Found Guilty In Deadly Neighbor Dispute

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) --The verdict is in and it's guilty on all four counts against Neal Zumberge for the May 2014 killing of his neighbor.

It took the Ramsey County jury of eight women and four men just three hours to decide that Zumberge acted with premeditation, killing Todd Stevens and injuring Jennifer Cleven in a long-running dispute over feeding deer and neighborhood quarreling.

Just two hours into the deliberations, jurors flagged their likely verdict to convict: They asked Judge Margaret Marrinan if they voted to convict Neal Zumberge on first-degree murder, did they still need a vote on a second-degree charge.

At that point, Zumberge's defense team knew it was soon over.

"No matter how long you do this, you never get used to the words guilty," Zumberge defense attorney Bill Orth said. "The tragedy of the Stevens family and Zumberge family continues. My job is to look at the record. Judge Marrinan was kind enough to give us extra time."

Jurors didn't buy the story that Zumberge acted in self defense, killing Stevens to protect his wife, Paula Zumberge, from harm.

The fact Zumberge loaded a shotgun six days before the killing, moving it from the basement to the living room, was enough to show jurors premeditation.

"I think a reasonable person, if they thought their wife was in imminent danger, would have run out of the house, screaming, saying, 'Get back, get over here, I think he has a gun,'" alternate juror Ryan Prusinski said. "He didn't do any of those things."

In her closing statement, prosecutor Anna Christie insisted it was not a case of self defense but cold blooded murder.

The Zumberge family was not in court when the verdict was read, but victim Jennifer Cleven was.

"We should not be here today," she said. "No emotion with him at all, and he has to live with that."

Zumberge was frozen at the announcement of the four guilty verdicts, staring straight ahead.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 14.


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