Twin Cities man charged in neighbor’s shooting death
ST. PAUL — A New Brighton, Minn., man reportedly angry about his neighbors’ habit of feeding deer has been charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
Neal Curtis Zumberge, 57, fired a shotgun across the street at Todd Stevens and Jennifer Damerow-Cleven about 8:30 p.m. Monday, killing Stevens and injuring his longtime girlfriend, according to charges filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court.
“He shot us! I knew he was going to do this!” Damerow-Cleven exclaimed when police arrived at the couple’s home at 2521 Knollwood Drive in New Brighton.
Stevens, 46, was found lifeless on his front steps. Medics pronounced him dead.
Damerow-Cleven, 48, was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis with injuries that weren’t life-threatening, police said.
Ramsey County District Judge George Stephenson set bail for Zumberge at $1.5 million during his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon.
The criminal complaint details the allegations against Zumberge this way:
Damerow-Cleven told police that she saw Zumberge’s son at the Acapulco Restaurant in New Brighton earlier that night. On April 29, the couple had seen Zumberge’s son at a VFW in Spring Lake Park, Minn. The son confronted her and Stevens at the VFW about their feeding of deer in their yard, blaming his father’s Lyme disease on it. He threatened to “burn down (their) house and kill” Stevens and Damerow-Cleven, police said.
The son, Jacob Howard Zumberge, was arrested Monday night at Acapulco Restaurant at the request of Spring Lake Park police and charged Wednesday in Anoka County District Court with terroristic threats and assault after allegedly shoving Stevens.
Neal Zumberge and his wife, Paula, were angry about the arrest.
“You (expletive), you put my son in jail,” Paula Zumberge said to Damerow-Cleven as the latter approached the home she shared with Stevens.
Stevens heard the commotion and came outside.
“Suddenly, the defendant appeared with a shotgun and started shooting several rounds at them,” the complaint said.
Stevens fell to the ground; Damerow-Cleven was hit in the stomach but got inside and called 911, hiding around the corner as shots entered the home.
Paula Zumberge yelled, “Shoot, shoot, shoot, keep shooting,” Damerow-Cleven told police, the complaint said.
Paula Zumberge was gone when police arrived and was not present in court for her husband’s hearing. A neighbor reported that a woman drove off in a white vehicle. She has not been charged.
Neal Zumberge told agents from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in an interview that the feud with his neighbors had been going on for
15 years. He admitted he left his basement through an egress window and shot Stevens with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot. He said he didn’t intend to shoot Damerow-Cleven.
He left the shotgun in the basement, he told agents. They recovered a Browning 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun there. It did not contain ammunition when found, the complaint said.
Investigators found four spent 12-gauge shotgun shells near the front door of the victims’ house.
A medical examiner’s report said Stevens bled to death from wounds in his head, chest, abdomen and extremities.
A friend and co-worker of Stevens, Jim Kroschel, said Tuesday that the arrest of Neil Zumberge’s son was the tipping point in the battle that had been brewing between the neighbors for years.
The feud led to several police calls to both homes over the years, as well as reports of bizarre behavior, New Brighton Chief of Police Bob Jacobson said Tuesday.
Damerow-Cleven obtained a harassment restraining order against Zumberge in April 2013 after reportedly finding deer parts, dead squirrels and two deer carcasses on her and Stevens’ property, according to a petition filed in Ramsey County District Court. Zumberge also threatened to beat Damerow-Cleven, the petition said.
Under the restraining order, Zumberge could not contact Damerow-Cleven or enter her property until June 2015. Zumberge has violated that at least once, Jacobson said.
The chief confirmed that deer carcasses had been found in the victims’ yard but said police never determined how they got there.
About the same time, an anonymous letter was circulated in the neighborhood warning residents of the dangers of attracting deer by feeding them, according to the court petition. The author claimed he and his dog both had tick-borne Lyme disease and that it was not uncommon for him to see “more than 10 deer flushing through (his) yard on their way to (the deer feeder).”
Jacobson said he didn’t believe police confirmed who circulated the letters.
Meanwhile, Jacob Howard Zumberge, 23, was charged with two counts of making terroristic threats and one count of fifth-degree assault in Anoka County District Court.
The threats reportedly were made against Stevens.
Jacob Zumberge is being held in the Anoka County Jail.
In an interview with police, Jacob Zumberge reportedly admitted to the confrontation earlier in the week and said he’d been triggered after Stevens made a “derogatory comment” to him, the complaint said.
Jacob Zumberge said he didn’t remember pushing Stevens.