ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A New Brighton, Minn. neighborhood feud over deer feeding ended in a first-degree murder conviction. Wednesday morning, gunman Neal Zumberge was sentenced to life in prison. There was no suspense at the sentencing hearing, but plenty of drama in the Ramsey County courtroom.
Two bombshells in court
1. Neal Zumberge very much wanted to fire his attorney before sentencing, for what he thought was ineffective legal representation.
2. He admitted in court Wednesday that he didn't tell the truth on the witness stand when he tried convincing a jury this was a case of self-defense.
'Todd didn't deserve to die'
Moments before the judge handed Zumberge his mandatory life sentence, the convicted murderer opened up. Zumberge apologized for fatally shooting his longtime neighbor, Todd Stevens. The killing was captured on a surveillance camera mounted on the home Stevens shared with his girlfriend.
"I am deeply sorry for the hurt I caused,” Zumberge said. “I would trade places with Todd Stevens if I could. Todd didn't deserve to die."
In a powerful 20-minute courtroom address, Zumberge recalled good times he shared with Stevens long before the feud over deer feeding and Stevens’ drinking boiled over. Zumberge choked up at times, and in a bombshell statement, admitted to lying on the witness stand. He explained he was "coached" to say certain things about the shooting that weren't true, including the fact that he thought Stevens was armed before he opened fire with his semi-automatic shotgun.
Desperate people do desperate things
"He's a desperate man because he just got life in prison,” defense attorney Bill Orth said. “And desperate people do desperate things."
Zumberge made it clear he feels he is entitled to a new trial. Orth said he will not handle Zumberge's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which will be handled by the state's public defender’s office.
The judge handed Zumberge an additional 15 years in prison beyond the life sentence for the attempted murder of Todd Stevens’ girlfriend, Jennifer Cleven, who was also shot.