ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Neal Zumberge’s fate may well come down to the 60 minutes he spent on the witness stand Monday morning. He and his attorneys argued the deadly shooting was an act of self-defense, not cold-blooded murder.
“He was always drunk,” Zumberge testified about his neighbor, Todd Stevens, adding that he had seen Stevens with a gun more than 100 times in recent years.
And while there were several questions about the ongoing neighborhood feud that revolved around deer feeding and other disagreements, the overwhelming focus was May 5, 2014. Zumberge’s wife, Paula, and Stevens’ girlfriend, Jennifer Cleven, were arguing outside their New Brighton, Minn. homes. Zumberge testified he was watching from a window and grabbed his loaded 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun when he saw Stevens step outside.
“He was standing on the front steps in a menacing way,” Zumberge said. “Arms crossed, leaning against the house.”
Zumberge crawled out from a basement window with the weapon. He watched from across the street, believing Stevens was armed.
Zumberge, who testified he can read lips, remembers Stevens last words being, “I am going to kill that f---ing b----.” Thinking he was threatening his wife, Neal Zumberge fired 4 shots, though he told the jury he didn’t mean to pull the trigger.
“It was just a blur,” Zumberge said. “The gun kept going off.”
When asked if he intended to kill Todd Stevens, Zumberge testified, “No, I wanted to stop him.”
On cross examination, prosecutor Anna Christie scored some points, getting Zumberge to admit what he thought was a gun on Stevens’ belt was instead a cell phone, and that he loaded his shotgun a week before the deadly encounter.
Also testifying on Monday were Neal’s son Nicholas and his wife, Paula Zumberge. Paula had gone through her own trial and was found not guilty of aiding and abetting murder by shouting at her husband to “shoot, shoot, shoot.”
Paula Zumberge testified that she only remembered 2 shots from over her right shoulder, and then watched as Stevens fell to the ground. She admitted she did not call 911 and did not go over to render aide to her 2 neighbors, instead fleeing in a car with keys her husband gave her.
Closing arguments have been scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.