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New Brighton shooting victim grieves 'good guy,' explains how feud erupted

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“This place is not my home any more. It’s a death house,” Jennifer Cleven told a group of reporters gathered in the front of her New Brighton home on Wednesday. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have nowhere to go. My life has been uprooted so bad.”

Cleven, 48, and her boyfriend of 18 years, Todd Stevens, 46, were shot in their front yard on Monday night. Stevens died as the result of gunshot wounds; Cleven was released from the Hennepin County Medical Center on Tuesday after being treated for injuries from shotgun pellets.

Four spent, 12-gauge shotgun shells were found near Stevens’ front door, according to the criminal complaint against their neighbor Neal C. Zumberge, 57. He has been charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder in Ramsey County District Court.

The Star Tribune reported that Cleven said a longstanding feud between the neighbors had been years in the making. She recalled the shooting in detail.

“I looked over and Mr. Zumberge was standing there with this gun and he was cocking it and all of a sudden he started shooting and I said run, Todd, he's got a gun," she said. "Todd said he shot me and those were the last words he said," Cleven recalled.

The dispute centered around Cleven and Stevens feeding deer and other wildlife in their yard. WCCO reported that Zumberge claimed that he had contracted Lyme disease as a result. Cleven said about a year ago she sought, and was given, a restraining order against Zumberge. She said that although she called the police dozens of times, officers said that they needed witnesses before they could take action against her neighbor.

“I’m very frustrated. When the police got here Monday, I was yelling ‘Are you happy? Are you happy now? Todd’s dead, and you never did nothing,’ ” she said.

KARE reported that Cleven suspected Zumberge opened fire because he was angry with her and Stevens for turning his son over to police for allegedly making terroristic threats against them theprevious week. Jacob Zumberge, 23, was arrested and jailed for those threats two hours before his father allegedly shot Cleven and Stevens. The younger Zumberge was charged Wednesday in Anoka County District Court with two felony counts of terroristic threats and one count of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault.

The first appearance for Neal Zumberge was continued until June 4. He remains jailed in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

“My life is done without him,” said Cleven of the loss of her boyfriend. “He was such a good guy.”

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