Skip to main content

Zumberge testifies he shot and killed his neighbor in self defense


Defendant Neil Zumberge testified on his own behalf during his murder trial in Ramsey County Monday morning, telling jurors he shot his neighbor, Todd Stevens, last year because he thought Stevens was going to harm Zumberge's wife, Paula.

Zumberge, 58, of New Brighton, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder for the May 5, 2014, killing of Stevens and the wounding of Stevens' girlfriend, Jennifer Damerow-Cleven, who lived across the street from him.

That evening, Damerow-Cleven and Paula Zumberge were arguing with each other in front of the Stevens house when the men came out of their respective homes. Zumberge brought a shotgun.

Zumberge testified Monday he fired the gun at Stevens because he believed Stevens was threatening Paula. He said he could read Stevens' lips and saw him say "I’m going to kill that [expletive] [expletive]," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Zumberge also said Stevens occasionally carried a small handgun in his waist, and he believed Stevens was reaching for one at that time.

Zumberge said he fired the shotgun several times at Stevens and Damerow-Cleven, but doesn't really remember how it all happened, KARE 11 reports.

"Everything was just a blur," Zumberge testified. "The gun just kept going off."

He said he didn't mean to kill Stevens.

It turns out Stevens was not armed at the time of the shooting.

The defense hopes to prove that Zumberge was acting in self-defense when he fired the fatal shots.

The prosecution argued he had planned the act ahead of time; indeed, Zumberge testified that he had taken his 12-gauge shotgun out of storage, loaded it and put it under his living room couch a week before the incident, according to the Pioneer Press.

Families feud

Zumberge told the court he did so because a feud between the two families that had been simmering for years was getting worse, the newspaper reports.

Prosecutors say the Zumberges 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 2014 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.

The defense rested its case early Monday afternoon. Closing arguments will take place Tuesday morning and then the jury will get the case.

The judge told jurors they will be sequestered overnight in a hotel if they don't reach a verdict by the end of the day Tuesday, according to the Pioneer Press.

Next Up

Kirill Kaprizov

Kirill Kaprizov's slow start is a thing of the past

A potential sophomore slump has been erased with a three-point night against the Devils..

mpd aldi incident screengrab

Video shows MPD officer grab, throw Aldi customer

The department says the matter was referred to the Office of Police Conduct Review.

US Sec Defense Flickr - Joe Bide Nov 11 2021

Biden lays out wintertime plan to curb COVID's spread

It comes as the U.S. reported its second case of the omicron variant.

Willow River DOC

MN Dept. of Corrections offering $5K bonuses as it seeks to hire 200

The DOC is offering hiring bonuses for new employees and for referrals.


3rd federal medical team to join COVID-19 fight in Minnesota

There are more than 1,500 people with COVID-19 admitted to Minnesota hospitals.

hospital, emergency room

Driver killed after other motorist crosses into opposite lane

The head-on crash occurred early Thursday, just north of the Twin Cities.

shot clock

MSHSL approves shot clock for Minnesota varsity basketball

Shot clocks will be required at all varsity games beginning in 2023-24.

Redmons Popcorn Colbert screengrab

Popcorn shop featured on 'The Late Show' has to close 2 days later

A county inspection after the national TV appearance found code violations.