Skip to main content

Self-defense or premeditated? Trial opens in New Brighton neighbors' fatal feud

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

Did a New Brighton man who was feuding with his neighbor over deer feeding kill the man in self-defense or in a cold-blooded calculation?

A Ramsey County jury will spend the next few weeks considering that question, as they weigh the fate of Neal Zumberge.

As FOX 9 reports, Wednesday's opening statements in Zumberge's murder trial portrayed him alternately as a man protecting himself and his wife from a neighbor he thought was drunk and possibly armed ... or as a killer who carried out the murder he'd planned.

Zumberge (right) is charged with first and second-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting death of Todd Stevens in May of 2014. Stevens' girlfriend, Jennifer Cleven, lived with Stevens in the home across the street from Zumberge's and was injured in the shooting.

Cleven and Zumberge's wife, Paula, were arguing across the street when the men came out of their respective homes; Zumberge with a shotgun.

WCCO reports that after defense lawyers said Zumberge thought Stevens was reaching toward a holster, Cleven testified that Stevens was unarmed and wore a large cell phone pouch around his waist.

WCCO says Cleven testified that she and Stevens had a good relationship with the Zumberge family for years, but it changed after Neal Zumberge lost his job.

Zumberge sent a letter to neighbors in 2012 complaining about Stevens' habit of putting out food for deer, saying that he'd contracted Lyme disease from deer ticks, the Star Tribune reports.

The following year animal parts and carcasses began showing up in their yard, leading Cleven and Stevens to get a restraining order against Zumberge, the newspaper says.

After defense lawyers argued Wednesday that Stevens had been vulgar and threatening toward Zumberge and frequently drank in his yard, prosecutors questioned a young couple who lived next door to Stevens and testified he had helped them with yard work and was typically more friendly when he drank, the Star Tribune reports.

WCCO says his lawyers indicated Zumberge will take the stand in his trial, which is expected to last two or three weeks.

Next Up

Sebastion Wolbersen-O’Hara

Police: 15-year-old missing from home north of Twin Cities

Authorities say he may be headed to the metro.

Joseph_P._Kennedy,_Sr_optimized

Foundation, the building, the win

Identifying Value Plus Catalysts helps your financial strategy and foundation

boating minnesota lake

25-year-old Hopkins man drowns after falling off boat

The man reportedly fell from the boat while fishing with friends.

mayor frey city minneapolis live stream march 14 2022

What's in Mayor Jacob Frey's budget proposal?

Here's a breakdown of what the Minneapolis mayor is focusing on in 2023-24.

Low, Mimi Parker

Low cancels Europe shows due to Mimi Parker's cancer treatment

The Duluth band says the decision follows 'recent changes' in Parker's treatment.

Screen Shot 2022-08-15 at 11.09.39 AM

Wisconsin man admits to 1992 revenge killings 15 years after boyhood tragedy

The 52-year-old man is in custody 30 years after the 1992 double murder.

Chapel of Love at Mall of America

Chapel of Love set to close at Mall of America after nearly 30 years

The owner cited retirement as the reason for the closure.

Minneapolis police

Man stabbed to death in his Minneapolis home identified

The victim's wife had an order of protection out against the suspect.

Related