Ruling Expected Next Week in Case of Deadly New Brighton Neighbor Dispute

Updated: 08/13/2014 1:43 PM
Created: 08/13/2014 12:36 PM
By: Megan Matthews

The trial for a New Brighton woman charged in a deadly dispute with neighbors is in recess after attorneys delivered closing arguments late Wednesday morning.

Paula Zumberge is charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree attempted murder. Her husband, 57-year-old Neal Zumberge, is charged in the shooting death of 46-year-old Todd Stevens and charged with wounding Stevens’ girlfriend, 48-year-old Jennifer Cleven, in May.

Stevens and Cleven lived across the street from the Zumberges, and Neal Zumberge allegedly was angry with them for feeding deer passing through the neighborhood.

Paula and Neal were initially expected to testify Wednesday during the trial, but late Tuesday night Zumberge’s attorney decided the couple would not take the stand.

The judge is not expected to issue a ruling until sometime next week. Paula Zumberge will remain in custody.

Before closing arguments, Chris Olson, with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, testified. He interviewed Neal Zumberge after the shooting. Olson says Neal told him he could find a gun in the basement, and Olson found two other guns in the rafters with gun locks on them.

A detective with the New Brighton Police Department also testified. He spoke with Jennifer Cleven the night of the murder. Cleven told him she felt like she was lured into an ambush by Paula and said Paula told her husband to shoot.

Video was also shown from the day of the murder. It was taken from surveillance cameras on Todd Stevens’ house.

One clip showed the moments leading up to the shooting. Paula was seen parking in the driveway of her home and going inside the house. Then, Cleven pulled into her own driveway and went into her home. A few minutes later, Paula came out of the home and confronted Cleven. Minutes later, shots were fired.

The prosecution said Neal and Paul had reached a breaking point, and Paula played a key role in Stevens’ murder. She was to lure Stevens and Cleven out of the house so her husband, Neal, could start shooting.

The defense said Neal Zumberge is the murderer, and Paula can’t be blamed simply because she is married to Neal.

During the first two days of the trial neighbors testified. Most say they heard the shots fired but did not hear Paula tell her husband to “keep shooting.”

The feud between the neighbors includes 23-year-old Jacob Zumberge, Paula and Neal’s son. Cleven’s sister told investigators that Cleven and Stevens had a run-in with Jacob at the VFW in Spring Lake Park at the end of April. Cleven went to police, saying Jacob started yelling and was asked to leave the bar. According to the criminal complaint, he left but went back inside and confronted the couple, pushing Stevens and telling them he was going to burn down their house and kill them.

Jacob also accused both Stevens and Cleven of causing him to contract Lyme disease, because they fed the deer in their yard, according to the criminal complaint.

Jacob Zumberge was arrested and charged with two counts of terroristic threats and one count of assault in the fifth degree.

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