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Wife of Minnesota man accused of killing neighbor charged as an accomplice

NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. -- The wife of a man charged with killing his New Brighton neighbor after a deer-feeding dispute has been charged in connection with the crime.

Paula Zumberge, 50, was charged Thursday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting attempted second-degree murder in the Monday night shooting.

A warrant was issued for her arrest and she was taken into custody late Thursday afternoon, according to New Brighton police chief Bob Jacobson.

Neal Curtis Zumberge, 57, was charged Wednesday with murder and attempted murder. According to police, he fired a shotgun across the street at Todd Gordon Stevens and Jennifer Damerow-Cleven about 8:30 p.m. Monday, killing Stevens and injuring his longtime girlfriend.

Stevens, 46, was pronounced dead at the scene. Damerow-Cleven, 48, was treated for her injuries at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

According to criminal complaints filed Wednesday and Thursday in Ramsey County District Court:

Neal Zumberge told agents from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in an interview after the shooting that the feud with his neighbors had been going on for 15 years.

Several days earlier, one of the Zumberges’ sons, Jacob Zumberge, 23, allegedly threatened Stevens and Damerow-Cleven at the VFW post in Spring Lake Park. He told them that he blamed them for his father’s Lyme disease because they routinely fed deer in their yard, attracting ticks that carry the disease. He threatened to kill them and burn down their house, across the street from the Zumberge home.

Jacob Zumberge was arrested Monday after Damerow-Cleven ran into him again, at the Acapulco Restaurant in New Brighton.

His parents were angry about the arrest.

When Damerow-Cleven got home, Paula Zumberge approached her.

“You (expletive), you put my son in jail,” Paula Zumberge reportedly said.

Stevens, who was inside the house, came out to see what was happening. Neal Zumberge then emerged from his residence with a shotgun and opened fire at Stevens.

Paula Zumberge encouraged the violence, saying, “Shoot, shoot, shoot, keep shooting,” Damerow-Cleven told police, according to the complaint.

By the time police arrived, Paula Zumberge was gone. A witness said she saw a woman drive off in a white vehicle.

A 12-gauge shotgun was found in the Zumberges’ basement. 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.

Damerow-Cleven had obtained a harassment restraining order against Neal Zumberge in April 2013 after reportedly finding deer parts, dead squirrels and two dead deer on her and Stevens’ property, according to a petition filed in Ramsey County District Court. Zumberge also threatened to beat up 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 were never able to determine how they got there.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.