First-degree murder indictments were announced Wednesday in two different criminal investigations in Ramsey County.
Charges in deer-feeding murder upgraded
A Ramsey County grand jury has indicted a New Brighton man on first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of his neighbor in May over a deer-feeding feud, the Ramsey County Attorney's office announced Wednesday.
Neil Zumberge, 57, was also indicted on first-degree attempted murder for wounding the neighbor's girlfriend.
Zumberge is accused of shooting the two neighbors, who live across the street from him, with a semiautomatic weapon. One of the two, Todd Stevens, 46, died. Jennifer Damerow-Cleven, 48, suffered serious injuries.
The assault reportedly grew out of a feud that had been simmering for years between the two families over Stevens' practice of feeding deer in his yard.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi had previously charged Zumberge with second-degree murder and attempted murder, but a grand jury indictment is required for the elevated first-degree murder charges. The previous charges still stand as well.
The complaint against Zumberge says he and his wife Paula were upset by the deer feeders on Stevens’ property and blamed the animals for a case of Lyme disease Neal Zumberge said he’d contracted. The disease is spread through deer ticks.
Last year Damerow-Cleven had obtained a restraining order against Neal Zumberge, who she said was harassing her.
Damerow-Cleven had called police before the shooting to report that the Zumberges' adult son, Jacob, had threatened to kill her and Stevens, authorities say.
Paula Zumberge was acquitted in August of several charges in connection with the case, including aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Prosecutors claimed that she had helped her husband plan the attack and encouraged him to keep shooting.
Neil Zumberge is due to appear in court Thursday afternoon on the new charges. He is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 2, 2015.
3 indicted in two-year old St. Paul killing
A Ramsey County grand jury indicted three men on first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of a St. Paul man more than two years ago, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
The victim, Leonard Christian, Sr., 56, was killed in his house on Central Avenue in the Summit-University area on March 30, 2012. Police said his home was riddled with bullets.
Christian's son, Leonard Christian Jr., was apparently the intended target of the shooting, Assistant Chief Bill Martinez said at a news conference Wednesday.
The three suspects were identified at the news conference as Ramone D. Smaller, Juan E. Martinez and Desean Thomas, according to the Pioneer Press. Smaller and Martinez are in prison for unrelated crimes. Thomas is in jail.
Police say the shooting may have been gang related; they said it took this long to bring the case to the grand jury because some witnesses were afraid to come forward.
One of the men, 22-year-old Smaller, is in prison for attempted murder in a July 2013 drive-by shooting.
Smaller, described by police as a gang member, was also charged in June in three shootings of St. Paul residences last October, the Pioneer Press reports.