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New Brighton Man Charged in Deadly Neighbors' Feud

Updated: 05/07/2014 6:31 PM
Created: 05/07/2014 12:48 PM KSTP.com
By: Nick Tabbert

Charges were filed Wednesday after an ongoing dispute between neighbors over feeding deer turned deadly Monday night in New Brighton.

Neal Zumberge is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder for the shootings of Todd Stevens and Jennifer Damerow-Cleven. He was expected to appear in court on Wednesday afternoon.

Police were called to the 2500 block of Knollwood Drive around 8:30 p.m. Monday night on a report of two people being shot by a neighbor.

Stevens died from a gunshot wound, and 48-year-old Damerow-Cleven was shot in the stomach, according to family members. The two lived together in the home on Knollwood Drive.

Police say Damerow-Cleven had an active harassment restraining order against the neighbor, who was identified by police as Zumberge. According to neighbors and the restraining order, the three had been arguing over the feeding of deer in the neighborhood.

Confrontation Turns Deadly

According to the criminal complaint, officers arrived at the home Monday night and saw Stevens on the front steps with several bullet wounds in his upper body area. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police found Damerow-Cleven inside the home bleeding from two bullet wounds to her abdomen. The complaint said she identified the shooter as Zumberge and screamed, "He shot us, I knew he was going to do this!"

Police said Zumberge, 57, turned himself in after the shooting. He was booked on suspicion of both second-degree attempted murder and second-degree murder.

Heated Argument, Threats Made

Damerow-Celven's sister Joni Andrew Bundy said her sister was afraid to be home alone because of her neighbor.

"He would throw carcasses and squirrels in her yard. He would shoot deer and throw it into the yard," Andrew Bundy said.

Last week, Andrew Bundy said her sister had a run-in with her neighbor's son at the local VFW last Tuesday; it got so heated Damerow-Cleven went to police.

"He had said to Jennifer, 'I am gonna kill you guys; you watch out and see.' People in the bar heard it, so Jennifer put out a restraining order on the son Thursday," Andrew Bundy said.

Jacob Zumberge, 23, is charged with two counts of terroristic threats and one count of assault in the fifth degree for the incident. 

According to the complaint against the son, Jacob Zumberge appeared to be under the influence when he confronted the couple during bingo at the VFW in Spring Lake Park. He asked Stevens to step outside and talk. That is when the son allegedly started yelling and crying and was asked to leave by other bar patrons, the complaint states.

Stevens went back into the bar and sat with Damerow-Celvens. The son approached them again and allegedly pushed Stevens, almost making him fall off his bar stool, according to prosecutors. Jacob Zumberge leaned in between the couple and allegedly said he was going to burn down their house and kill them, according to investigators.

The son told police when he was leaving the bar, Stevens made a derogatory comment and he remembers putting his hand on Stevens, but he did not remember pushing him, according to the complaint. Police said the son said, "I might  blown up here."

Damerow-Cleven called police, who arrested the son about 8 p.m. Monday night, the complaint said.

The criminal complaint added the son accused Stevens and Damerow-Cleven of causing Zumberge to contract Lyme disease because they fed deer in their yard.

Feud Escalates

When Damerow-Cleven arrived home, she was confronted by Paula Anne Zumberge, Neal Zumberge's wife. Paula Zumberge told Damerow-Cleven, "You f***ing bi*ch, you put my son in jail."

Stevens heard the two women talking and came outside, the complaint said.

At that point, Neal Zumberge also came outside with the shotgun and started shooting. Stevens fell to the ground, Damerow-Cleven was hit in the stomach but managed to get inside the house, where she called police.

She hid around a corner as shots continued to be fired at her in the house, the complaint said. She heard Paula Zumberge yelling, "Shoot, shoot, shoot, keep shooting," while her husband continued to shoot, the complaint said.

Paula Zumberge was not on scene when police arrived. A neighbor told police she saw a woman drive off in a white vehicle after the shooting occurred.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension recovered a Browning 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun in the basement of the house. The gun was empty, but police found four spent 12-gauge shotgun shells near the front door of Damerow-Cleven's and Stevens' house.

In a post-Miranda interview, Neal Zumberge told the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension he left his basement through an egress window and shot Stevens with a 12-gauge shotgun, loaded with buckshot, the complaint said.

He claimed he did not intend to shoot Damerow-Cleven, and that he left the shotgun in the basement of his home, the complaint said.

Police said they have been called to the location several times in the past.

Paula Zumberge could be charged in the incident. Neal Zumberge remains in the Ramsey County Jail on $1.5 million bail. Jacob Zumberge is being held in the Anoka County Jail on $100,000 bail.

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