Dunwoody resident Andrea Sneiderman had to feel like she was on trial this week in the murder trial of her husband, instead of the man who has admitted firing the shots that killed Rusty Sneiderman in the parking lot of the Dunwoody Prep daycare center on November 18, 2010.
It’s a fact: widow Andrea Sneiderman most assuredly was on trial this week—if not for having a direct hand in what led to the death of her husband, certainly in the court of public opinion.
She is not charged with any involvement in the crime. Hemy Zvi Neuman, her former boss at GE Energy in Cobb County, has admitted killing Rusty Sneiderman and plead not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder case.
Who committed the killing is known. What is not known is why.
Also, what has not yet been fully established is whether the murder was the outcome of a love triangle—a romantic affair going on for months between Hemy Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman—or an insanity involving Neuman and delusions of 6-foot-tall demons and angels leading him to commit the murder.
To cap off the first week of the trial, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams ordered Andrea Sneiderman barred from the courtroom and courthouse and ordered her not to have any contact with witnesses.
The action came as a result of a request by Assistant District Attorney Don Geary, and joined by the defense, after Geary said Sneiderman on Thursday greeted a witness outside the courtroom and told her she no longer was a friend, hugged the witness after she testified and entered a witness room against instructions. Adams had warned that the hugging contact with the witness was improper, prior to Geary’s request for her to be barred from the courthouse.
Defense attorney Doug Peters started his opening arguments on Tuesday morning stating, “This case is about two good men”—Rusty Sneiderman, 36, “a great father to his two children” Sophia , 4, and Ian, 2, (at the time of the murder), and Hemy Neuman, 48, “from a good but troubled family, great father to three”—twins Tom and Lee, 21, both seniors at Georgia Tech, and daughter Addy, 18, a freshman at Tech.
“On November 18, 2010, the lives of those men and their families were shattered, broken in pieces on the ground, never to be put back together again,” Peters said.
“Why? Everyone in this courtroom and this community is looking for the answer,” added Peters.
Peters, said in his opening statements that Neuman believed he had been visited by an angel resembling Olivia Newton-John and a demon resembling Barry White, who told him that Sneiderman's children were actually his and that he needed to protect them by killing Rusty Sneiderman.
The defense claims Neuman did not know right from wrong at the time of the murder because of his mental problems.
The prosecution, on the other hand, painted Neuman as a calculating killer who planned Sneiderman's shooting for months—going to gun shows, taking a gun safety course, going to target practice, renting a car for the shooting and wearing a disguise. They claim he very well knew what he was doing and knew right from wrong.
Prosecutors have called several witnesses who say they never saw signs of delusion in Neuman. They have also produced a bartender who says she saw Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman groping and kissing at a club in Greenville, S.C., and witnesses who say Neuman told them he was having an affair.
They produced Colorado hotel clerks who stated that Neuman told them he and Andrea had just recently been married.
One thing is for sure, both the prosecution and the defense have spent the first week of the trial focused not on the aspects of the murder, but on a possible extramarital affair between Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman. It was a possible affair that spanned more than six months and several out of town trips the two took together—and possible romantic interludes shared by the two.
Following opening arguments in which both the prosecution and defense strongly suggested the relationship between Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman was far more intimate than business and a friendship, Mrs. Sneiderman was called as the first witness in the trial on Tuesday and grilled for six hours over two days by attorneys for both sides.
Some legal observers of the trial feel the widow should not have agreed to testify in the trial of her former boss, because she has put herself at risk by her testimony—at risk of perjury charges if nothing more.
On Thursday, two witnesses—the woman's father-in-law, Don Sneiderman, and a close friend of hers—revealed that Andrea Sneiderman told them she knew her husband had been shot before she arrived at Atlanta Medical Center, contradicting earlier testimony by the widow that she first learned of the shooting at the hospital.
Andrea Sneiderman testified Tuesday that she received a call around 9:25 a.m., November 18, 2010, from a staffer at Dunwoody Prep telling her there had been an accident but offering no specifics. She said it was another hour before she found out that her husband had been shot. “No one (at Dunwoody Prep) would tell me what happened,” said Andrea Sneiderman.
However, on Thursday, Don Sneiderman said his son's wife called at roughly 9:30 a.m. that November day to tell him, “Rusty has been shot.” He said the woman told him she was en route to Dunwoody Prep at the time.
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James asked Don Sneiderman if he was certain that “Andrea told you Rusty had been shot.”
“Yes, sir,” he responded.
Don Sneiderman also testified that when family and friends were gathered in mourning some days later, Andrea Sneiderman introduced him to Neuman, who was her boss at the time.
Shayna Citron, a longtime friend of the Sneidermans, testified that Andrea called her and said Rusty had been shot and that she was on the way to the hospital.
Those witnesses, called by the prosecution, imply Andrea Sneiderman had prior knowledge of the shooting.
And, both the prosecution and defense attorneys also pointed to phone records that showed Andrea Sneiderman placed several calls to the cell phone of Hemy Neuman while she was on her way to the daycare center and the hospital.
Citron also testified that she didn’t believe her friend when she denied an affair with Neuman.
“When she told you ‘no,’ did you believe her?” James asked.
“No, but my heart wanted to,” replied Citron, who was hugged by Andrea Sneiderman after her testimony in court.
Thursday's revelations provide some context as to why, during the trial's first two days, both the prosecution and defense seemed to focus more on the victim's widow, and her relationship with the Neuman, than on the man on trial.
Some legal experts suspect the defense is going to bring in an expert to say she was the trigger that brought back the demons and led Neuman to commit the murder.
Tuesday and Wednesday were full days in the DeKalb Superior Court of Judge Gregory A. Adams, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Thursday was a half day and testimony resumed on Friday of the first week.
Andrea Sneiderman remains under subpoena and will likely be called to the stand again during the trial, which is expected to last up to four to five weeks.
During her earlier testimony Tuesday and Wednesday, Andrea Sneiderman said her ex-boss was "a self-proclaimed delusional individual" who fooled her using "masterful manipulation." She described Neuman as a “predator.”
"Every time we spoke, it was like he was my best friend. Every time we had a verbal conversation, 'Oh, I understand. I respect your marriage,'" Sneiderman said of Neuman. "But what he liked to do was jab at my marriage. But then, 'I respect you. You're a good mother.' That was his mode of operation."
On Wednesday morning, the widow faced a tough cross-examination from defense lawyer Bob Rubin regarding her relationship with the defendant. Rubin’s line of questioning often mirrored that of prosecutor Don Geary, who questioned Sneiderman for nearly three hours on Tuesday.
Among the major concerns and issues of question of both sides during the first two days of the trial were why, on December 30, 2010, Andrea Sneiderman told a close friend she was convinced Neuman had killed her husband but waited nearly a week to tell Dunwoody police.
Sneiderman testified she did not do so because she feared Neuman was monitoring her emails. However, on January 4, 2011, when she next met with police, she made no mention of Neuman.
Instead, Prosecutor Geary said, “You took them down a rabbit hole. Why were you protecting the defendant?”
“Have you seen what’s happened to my life?” Sneiderman responded.
“Have you seen what happened to Rusty’s life,” Geary retorted.
It was right after that cross-examination by Geary that Sneiderman was then dismissed from the stand on Wednesday.
Earlier she had been asked to square her denials of an illicit relationship with Neuman with emails she had sent to the defendant, including one where she discussed a betrayal to her family.
That “betrayal,” she testified in court, referred to her holding hands with Neuman after her then-supervisor first professed his love.
Sneiderman told the court that after Neuman read her a poem at dinner during a business trip, she realized that "he had deeper feelings for me than just friends."
"None of those feelings were ever returned and I made myself completely clear where I stood," Sneiderman said. "I did nothing but try to help Hemy Neuman—suggested he get counseling in his marriage, not move out of his home. I would do that for any friend."
"I remember walking out of that dinner like we were best buddies," she said. "It was a masterful manipulation."
But, according to a witness at a Greenville, S.C., nightclub where the two were spotted in late October, 2010 -- less than a month before Rusty Sneiderman’s murder – Andrea Sneiderman was very affectionate toward the defendant, including kissing him on the lips.
“They looked like a couple, groping, touching each other,” said waitress Christine Olivera, who was called by the prosecution. “I know because I kind of turned away.”
Olivera testified they left the club appearing “very happy” and said she saw them kissing again as they left the club.
Earlier Wednesday, Sneiderman testified the Greenville trip marked the end of their friendship because Neuman “didn’t know boundaries.”
Melanie White, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent friend of the defendant, corroborated that portion of Sneiderman’s testimony, testifying Neuman had told her Sneiderman broke things off after Greenville. However, Neuman also told White that he was intimate with Sneiderman while in South Carolina.
“She gave in,” White said, recalling Neuman’s words. “I believe he meant they had intercourse.”
Other friends of Neuman testified that he claimed he had been intimate with Sneiderman before the Greenville trip in October.
Defense lawyer Bob Rubin pressed Sneiderman about their relationship, bringing to light emails between the two, affectionate gestures on Neuman’s part and trips.
Sneiderman said she didn’t recall many of the emails and said she never crossed the line on business trips. Particularly disputed was a trip to Longmont, Colo. Sneiderman said she was there for job training. Rubin said Neuman joined her on the trip to spend time with her, but Sneiderman said she believed at the time he was there on business.
A front desk agent from the Colorado hotel where the two stayed took the stand. “I received an unusual request,” Brady Blackburn said. He said he was asked by Neuman to give Sneiderman expensive flowers and chocolates. Blackburn said when he delivered a love note to Sneiderman, “She responded bashfully. She blushed.”
Several other hotel employees were brought in and lawyers on both sides asked them about previous statements made regarding the business trips.
A South Carolina hotel assistant manager said Sneiderman requested adjoining rooms for her and Neuman. Another hotel employee said Sneiderman changed a reservation on one trip from a room with two beds and one guest to one bed and two guests and requested a late checkout.
Sneiderman testified there were times when she "realized every activity, every situation he put me in was a convenient situation to get what he wanted, to get me in a position he wanted, to get me to spend time with him."
In one email exchange, Neuman apologized for causing Sneiderman pain.
She responded, "I don't know what to say. Apology heartfelt, but does not make ongoing pain go away that I now have to repent and live with it the rest of my life."
Sneiderman told the court that she was referring to holding hands with Neuman.
On Tuesday, Sneiderman told the court she had “no choice” but to put up with the unwanted advances from Neuman, for the sake of her job and career. She later testified she shied away from Neuman when possible.
Following up on Wednesday, Rubin, referring to a business trip the two took together to England, asked: "Going to a castle [together], is that your definition of 'shying away?’ "
“It is,” Sneiderman replied.
This trip came after Neuman asked her to marry him. He also, in an email, told Sneiderman he wouldn’t accompany her to the U.K. unless she felt he was needed.
“You had the option of telling Hemy Neuman not to go to England,” Rubin said.
Sneiderman said she felt he should be there, “for work reasons.”
Sneiderman also was questioned as to why she felt she could not walk away from the job at GE Energy, since she and her husband had $800,000 in a bank savings account and owned two homes—one in Dunwoody that they paid $940,000 for and another at Lake Oconee.
She said that she and Rusty were good at dealing with finances and they only lived on what they made through their jobs. She was the primary wage earner in the family, since Rusty had a history of only holding jobs for a year or so and was focused on entrepreneurial ventures of start-up companies, most of which had not been successful.
She is even better off now, since she collected almost $2 million in insurance payments in December after Rusty Sneiderman’s death.
During her testimony, Schneiderman confirmed that Neuman attended her husband's shiva and funeral, even participating in the throwing of the dirt on the coffin.
Sneiderman told the court that she began to suspect Neuman towards the end of December 2010, when she was in Florida. But she knew that Neuman was in Florida, too, and was afraid that he might be monitoring her emails or that he knew where she was.
Though she had suspicions about Neuman, she told the court it was "unfathomable" to her that he had really killed her husband until he was arrested.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I thought I was crazy. Whose boss kills someone's husband? Affair or no affair—and there wasn't—who kills someone else's husband?"
At day’s end on Wednesday, the focus returned to the defendant, with prosecutors calling the man who sold Neuman the gun used in the murder.
Jan DaSilva said he sold Neuman the 40-caliber handgun for $375 in October. In late November, DaSilva testified, Neuman contacted him again, saying there had been a problem – but not with the weapon.
“Don’t ever have a mistress,” DaSilva said, quoting Neuman. “Because of [that], I have a problem with my family.”
Neuman said there had been an “altercation” and he had to get rid of the gun, tossing it into Lake Lanier. Neuman then asked the witness to fabricate a story in case anyone asked how they knew each other, DaSilva testified.