Ga. murder trial's focus on victim's widow
DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — At the murder trial of the man accused of gunning down her husband outside a preschool, Andrea Sneiderman has faced tough questioning of her own.
Much of the testimony from Andrea Sneiderman and other witnesses over four days last week focused on the widow's actions before and after her husband's shooting death in November 2010.
They've suggested she was involved in an affair with his killer, that she knew details of his death suspiciously early and that she tried to protect the man prosecutors say had killed Russell Sneiderman moments after he dropped off his toddler at a suburban Atlanta day-care center.
Although Andrea Sneiderman hasn't been charged with a crime, she has been front and center at the murder trial of her ex-boss, Hemy Neuman. He claims he was insane when he killed Russell Sneiderman, asserting that an angel who looked like Olivia Newton-John ordered him to carry out the shooting.
Defense attorneys say Neuman fell so hopelessly in love with Andrea Sneiderman, whom he supervised at General Electric, that he believed he was the father of her two children and that the only way to protect them was to kill Russell Sneiderman.
Neuman, who has quietly watched the proceedings since Tuesday, faces life in prison if convicted.
In testimony and through her attorney, Andrea Sneiderman has denied allegations she was involved in an illicit relationship with Neuman, who she considered a family friend. She said she was the victim of "masterful manipulation" from a stalker who weaseled his way into her life only to ambush her husband when she refused Neuman's advances.
Her denials haven't stopped both sides from targeting her. And her testimony could play a key role for both sides. Prosecutors are seeking to use her statements to prove her husband's death was a carefully planned killing, while defense attorneys may seek to argue that Neuman's infatuation with her ultimately drove him insane.
She's responded with occasional hostility and emotion to the questions from both sides. During breaks, she gave tearful hugs to her family members, who sat conspicuously apart from Russell Sneiderman's relatives, and once gave a long embrace to a family friend called to testify. A judge put an end to the behavior Friday when he barred her from the courtroom after prosecutors accused her of improperly contacting the family friend.
The trial has attracted international attention because of the brazenness of the slaying, the backgrounds of the suspect and victim and the fact that it took place outside a day care center.
Russell Sneiderman, a Harvard-trained entrepreneur, was slain shortly after dropping off the couple's 2-year-old son at the center in Dunwoody, a wealthy suburb north of Atlanta. A bearded man in a hoodie fired four shots and then hopped into a silver minivan and sped away. It happened so quickly that police initially believed it could have been a professional job.
Neuman, a Georgia Tech graduate and father of three, was arrested about six weeks later after prosecutors learned he had rented a similar vehicle before the shooting.
Prosecutors argued that he meticulously planned Russell's killing and that he didn't show signs of emotional distress in the weeks leading up to the killing. But defense attorneys say that Neuman was suffering from delusions and believed he was the father of Andrea's two young children.
Attorneys played hours of video from Neuman's police interview to jurors on Monday. But the arguments could shift this week to again address whether Andrea Sneiderman knew more details about the shooting than she let on.
Phone records show she and Neuman exchanged three phone calls on the eve of her husband's death and that she called him six more times on the way to the hospital. And while she testified she didn't discover her husband had been shot until she reached the hospital about an hour after the shooting, her father-in-law and a close friend both said she called to deliver the bad news only minutes after he was shot.
Attorneys elicited testimony from the emergency room physician who tried to resuscitate Russell Sneiderman that Andrea was "not very emotional" about her husband's death and that her first request was a child psychologist to help her children.
She's also facing scrutiny over the timing of her decision to tell police about her suspicions that Neuman may have committed the crime. She told a close friend in December that she believed Neuman could have killed her husband, but didn't tell detectives about her concerns for another week.
Andrea Sneiderman said she acknowledged she made mistakes by holding hands with Neuman, dancing with him at a bar and having long dinners with him while on business trips. And she said she regrets not reporting inappropriate emails he sent professing his love to the company's human resources department because she feared for her job.
She said she called her boss after the shooting to let him know about her family crisis, and she refrained from telling police about her fears that he was the killer because she was afraid he was monitoring her email. As for why she didn't tell police early on about Neuman's feelings for her, she said the notion that he killed her husband seemed unfathomable.
"Seems kind of ridiculous, right?" she said. "The theory that my boss could kill my husband, it seemed kind of stupid at the time."
The case has drawn an international following, in part thanks to live footage of the trial on several websites.
Atlanta resident Carrie Burns said she keeps one of her three computer monitors tuned to the trial so she can keep up with the details.
"This is perfect. I can have it on streaming and still be productive at the same time," said Burns, 37, who once worked near the shooting site.
Shameeka Ayers said she and her friends were drawn in by the "villainess" vibe she said Andrea Sneiderman exudes. Ayers and six of her friends have a private Facebook group — which they've dubbed the Real No. 1 Women's Detective Agency — where they discuss the case at length.
"This is better than any episode of The Real Housewives of fill-in-the-blank," she said. "We are grown women, half of us married with children and jobs, and we are obsessed with this mess."
Associated Press writer Kate Brumback contributed to this report.
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