DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A corporate engineer was insane when he fatally shot a toddler's father outside a Georgia preschool and had been manipulated by the victim's wife into killing her husband, his attorneys said in closing arguments Tuesday. Prosecutors countered that the crime was rooted in jealousy and not a "contrived" mental illness.
Hemy Neuman's lawyer told the jury that there was no doubt that his client gunned down Russell "Rusty" Sneiderman in November 2010. But he said Sneiderman's wife Andrea fed Neuman's dangerous delusions by encouraging him to believe he needed to kill her husband to protect her two children.
"The gun in this case was in Hemy's hand," defense attorney Doug Peters said during closing arguments. "But the trigger, I respectfully suggest, was pulled by Andrea Sneiderman."
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James also took swipes at Andrea Sneiderman, suggesting she played a role in the killing. But he urged jurors to focus on Neuman, calling the killing a carefully calculated murder by an envious man who was determined to take what he couldn't have.
"This was not because of some made up, some contrived, some constructed mental defect. It's simple," he said. "Hemy Neuman killed Rusty Sneiderman because he wanted his wife, he wanted his money, he wanted his wife. Period."
Sneiderman, a Harvard-educated entrepreneur, was slain shortly after dropping off the couple's 2-year-old son at the preschool in Dunwoody, a suburb north of Atlanta. Neuman, a Georgia Tech graduate and father of three, was arrested about six weeks later.
The 49-year-old could face life in prison if he's found guilty of murder and he would become a ward of the state if found not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury deliberated for about 15 minutes Tuesday before being sent home for the day. The jurors are set to resume Wednesday.
Neuman was Andrea Sneiderman's supervisor at General Electric, and much of the last three weeks of testimony has focused on her. Prosecutors and defense lawyers have both suggested that Andrea was involved in an affair with Neuman, that she knew details of his death suspiciously early and that she tried to protect Neuman after the killing.
"This case is about one bad, really bad woman: Andrea Sneiderman. Adulterer. Tease. Calculator. Liar. And master manipulator," said Peters. "I respectfully suggest to you that following this trial that Webster's dictionary should be changed and from this day forward, anyone who looks up the definition of evil will see nothing more than a photograph of Andrea Sneiderman."
Andrea Sneiderman, who hasn't been charged with any criminal wrongdoing, has denied allegations she was in an inappropriate relationship with Neuman. She said she was victimized by a "masterful manipulator" who ambushed her husband when she turned down his advances.
Neuman's attorneys argued that Andrea Sneiderman knew their client was delusional and that the mixed romantic signals she was sending him only ratcheted up his mania. They said the two exchanged 1,500 phone calls and text messages in the months leading up to the killing, and that they shared long dinners and intimate moments, including sex, during several business trips.
"She had primed the pump. She planted the seed. She stoked the fire," Peters said. "She knew what she set out to do with somebody who was sick, that she accomplished."
Prosecutors didn't mince words about Andrea Sneiderman, either. In one swoop, James discounted Neuman's arguments that an apparition ordered him to kill Sneiderman, and suggested the victim's wife was a "co-conspirator" who couldn't keep her story straight.
"Either the angel and demon were talking to Hemy and telling Hemy to kill Rusty," he said, "or (it was) the demon that he was sleeping with, the demon that he was cheating with and the demon that he was taking trips with."
Expert witnesses who have testified during the trial were divided over Neuman's mental state during the shooting. Some have said he was bipolar and suffered from mania and delusions when he killed Sneiderman, and others said they don't believe he was mentally ill during the killing.
But James said Neuman's carefully plotted actions were proof that he knew exactly what he was doing. He pointed to Neuman's decision after the killing to participate in Sneiderman's funeral and visit Sneiderman's family for a Jewish mourning ceremony days later.
"Nobody would think to look for the killer in the victim's house," he said. "Nobody would ever think the killer would go up and shake Rusty's father's hand. It was ingenious. But it was evil."
Defense attorneys urged the jurors to find Neuman not guilty by reason of insanity — a verdict that Peters contended would signal that Neuman was manipulated into committing the crime by Andrea Sneiderman.
"Nothing can undo this tragedy," said Peters. "It can only be made more tragic by a verdict that does not speak the truth."
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