Russell “Rusty” Sneiderman had a master’s in business administration from Harvard, had worked as a chief operating officer and a financial consultant, and had struck out on his own as an independent entrepreneur.
On November 18, he was dropping his 2-year-old off at a Dunwoody, Georgia daycare center when he was confronted by a gunman in the parking lot. He was executed with multiple gunshot wounds in what some would later come to believe was a professional hit.
But it wasn’t. It would take detectives more than a month to find their man, but January 5, 2011 they arrested Hemy Zvi Neuman, an engineer and supervisor at General Electric. Police said a bearded man in a hoodie resembling Neuman fired four shots at the 36-year-old Sneiderman and sped away, blending in with rush hour traffic.
He just happens to be the boss of Sneiderman’s wife Andrea, who’s also an engineer. Both the killer and the victim apparently knew each other, though the nature of their relationship is unclear.
Sneiderman was a father active in medical charities. Neuman, a native of Israel, was equally successful, living in a neighborhood where the homes sell for $500,000. He’d graduated with honors from Georgia Tech before going to work at General Electric 11 years ago.
Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman worked in the same division at General Electric, where they oversaw programs involving nuclear reactors and solar panels.
In the weeks after the slaying, neighbors say they hadn’t seen Neuman. His Facebook page said he was on vacation with his three children in Florida, and it wasn’t updated again until New Year’s. But police have yet to recover a murder weapon or the van used as a getaway car. It’s also unknown how the investigative trail led to Neuman.
The murder could also be money-related, as Neuman appears to be having financial problems. Despite a good job and an expensive home, he’s asked for a public defender, claiming he can’t afford a lawyer.
Neuman’s wife, Ariela Neuman, filed for separation from her incarcerated husband. And she claims he and Andrea Sneiderman were having an affair. ”We believe there was an extramarital relationship between Hemy Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman,” Ariela’s lawyer, Esther Panitch.
Ariela is asking for evidence in the murder probe that pertains to the relationship between Neuman and Andrea. The district attorney’s office recently got a search warrant for email and phone call records between the two suspected lovers. Ariela’s lawyer contends Andrea continued to communicate with Neuman even after her husband’s slaying.
Ariela is filing for a separation from Neuman, claiming adultery and cruel treatment. She’s asking for child support for their 17-year-old daughter.
Hemy Neuman was charged with murder in the death of Russell Sneiderman. Prosecutors and defense attorneys said the shooting was linked to an affair Sneiderman’s wife was having with Neuman, though she denied those allegations.
The jury’s guilty but mentally ill verdict means Neuman will go to prison but he will get mental health treatment while there. Neuman did not show any emotion as the verdict was read.
Neuman, a Georgia Tech graduate and father of three, was a high-ranking manager at General Electric, where he supervised Sneiderman’s wife Andrea. He was arrested about six weeks after the killing when prosecutors discovered he rented a silver minivan seen speeding away from the shooting on the morning of Nov. 18, 2010.
The trial garnered attention because the slaying was brazen, Neuman and Sneiderman had impressive professional backgrounds and because of the questions surrounding Andrea Sneiderman, who was accused of goading Neuman into the killing by both prosecutors and defense attorneys.
She denied knowing anything about the killing.
Prosecutors called the shooting a calculated killing by a jealous man who wanted what he couldn’t have. Neuman’s attorneys argued he could not tell the difference between right and wrong when he killed Sneiderman.
Neuman pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If the jury had reached that verdict, Neuman would have become a ward of the state mental health department and a judge would have later decided when, if ever, he could be released.
Neuman told mental health examiners he was visited by a demon whose voice sounded like Barry White and an angel who looked like Olivia Newton-John. The angel ordered him to fatally shoot Sneiderman, Neuman said in one interview.
Experts on both sides of the case disagreed over whether Neuman was insane during the shooting.
Neuman’s lawyers said during the month long trial he fell so hopelessly in love with Andrea Sneiderman that he believed he was the father of her two children and that the only way to protect them was to kill her husband. Defense attorney Doug Peters called her a tease and an adulterer who took advantage of Neuman’s deteriorating mental condition to get her husband’s $2 million life insurance policy.
“The gun in this case was in Hemy’s hand,” Peters said. “But the trigger, I respectfully suggest, was pulled by Andrea Sneiderman.”
Hemy Neuman’s lawyer told the jury that there was no doubt that his client gunned down Russell “Rusty” Sneiderman in November 2010. But he said Sneiderman’s wife Andrea fed Neuman’s dangerous delusions by encouraging him to believe he needed to kill her husband to protect her two children.
Prosecutors also had few kind words for Andrea Sneiderman. DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James suggested in his closing arguments that she was Neuman’s co-conspirator and that the two were covering up for each other. But he said her possible influence on Neuman shouldn’t take away from the crime that he committed.
“This case is about one bad, really bad woman: Andrea Sneiderman. Adulterer. Tease. Calculator. Liar. And master manipulator,” said Peters. “I respectfully suggest to you that following this trial that Webster’s dictionary should be changed and from this day forward, anyone who looks up the definition of evil will see nothing more than a photograph of Andrea Sneiderman.”
“This was not because of some made up, some contrived, some constructed mental defect. It’s simple,” James said. “Hemy Neuman killed Rusty Sneiderman because he wanted his wife, he wanted his money, he wanted his life. Period.”
James said Neuman’s carefully plotted actions were proof that he knew exactly what he was doing. He pointed to Neuman’s decision after the killing to participate in Sneiderman’s funeral and visit Sneiderman’s family for a Jewish mourning ceremony days later.
“Nobody would think to look for the killer in the victim’s house,” he said. “Nobody would ever think the killer would go up and shake Rusty’s father’s hand. It was ingenious. But it was evil.”
Defense attorneys urged the jurors to find Neuman not guilty by reason of insanity — a verdict that Peters contended would signal that Neuman was manipulated into committing the crime by Andrea Sneiderman.
“Nothing can undo this tragedy,” said Peters. “It can only be made more tragic by a verdict that does not speak the truth.”
During the trial, Judge Gregory Adams ordered Andrea Sneiderman to stay away from the courthouse and not to have any contact with witnesses.
Adams said that after a witness testified on Thursday that she was approached by Sneiderman. The judge said the contact was improper and granted the prosecution’s request that Sneiderman be barred from the courthouse.
Andrea Sneiderman repeatedly denied allegations she was having an affair with Neuman. She testified that Neuman weaseled his way into her life and attacked her husband after she refused many advances, and that she didn’t air her suspicions that Neuman killed her husband because it sounded unbelievable.
“Seems kind of ridiculous, right?” she said. “The theory that my boss could kill my husband, it seemed kind of stupid at the time.”
Days after she testified for prosecutors, she was barred from the courtroom for being disruptive and improperly engaging a witness despite being told not to do so.
Andrea Sneiderman was hired in early 2010, and she and Neuman hit it off, exchanging 1,500 phone calls and text messages in the months leading up to the killing. On work trips, they would share long dinners and intimate moments, including sex, according to attorneys.
Neuman didn’t testify, but jurors heard him through hours of video recordings of interviews with investigators and mental health experts. In one interview, Neuman was asked if he thinks he’s the biological father of Sneiderman’s two children.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said. “I feel like these are my children. I feel like I need to be there for them. I feel like I need to raise them and I need to protect them. But I don’t know.”
Neuman’s attorneys tried to portray their client as a brilliant but troubled child who was constantly in fear of his father, a Holocaust survivor wracked with guilt because he was able to escape the death chambers at Auschwitz while many relatives died.
Born in Mexico, Neuman was sent to a boarding school in Israel and still suffers from fear of being abandoned, his attorneys said. He later landed the GE job that allowed him to buy a pricey home in an upscale Atlanta suburb.
Neuman first tried to kill his rival Nov. 10, 2010, when he camped outside Sneiderman’s house with a gun he recently purchased and waited to attack, prosecutors said. But he bolted after Russell Sneiderman noticed an intruder on his property and called police.
Eight days later, prosecutors said, Neuman arrived at his office much earlier than usual — at 5:36 a.m. — then sneaked out a back door to avoid security cameras and to give himself an alibi.
Andrea was arrested in August 2012 on charges of malice murder and criminal attempt to commit murder in the killing of Rusty.
Neuman, who admitted to the killing, was found guilty but mentally ill and sentenced in March 2012 to life in prison. Andrea Sneiderman, who denies involvement in the murder, has pleaded not guilty and her defense team is currently arguing to dismiss some of the charges against her.
Assistant District Attorney Anna Green Cross argued that Andrea Sneiderman lied and concealed from investigators that she knew her husband had been killed before police told her. Cross also argued that Andrea lied about her relationship with Neuman.
Andrea erased cell phone logs chronicling phone calls and texts between her and her boss on the day of her husband’s killing, an investigator with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office testified. Furthermore, investigator Mark Potter says texts to and from Neuman before the day of the murder had not been deleted from Sneiderman’s blackberry.
Lawyers for Andrea Sneiderman have argued that 13 of the 16 counts against their client lack specificity, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. They also are fighting to subpoena Neuman’s ex-wife and the defendant’s in-laws.
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams set the bond Tuesday after Sneiderman’s attorneys said she wasn’t a flight risk and would follow instructions not to contact witnesses.
The judge ordered Sneiderman to live with her parents and be placed under house arrest, to surrender her passport and the passports of her young children and to wear a monitoring device. The judge also ordered Sneiderman not to have any contact with any potential witness in the case.
Prosecutor Don Geary had argued against bond, saying Sneiderman faced serious charges that could carry a potential sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if she is convicted. Geary said the charges gave her an incentive to flee and that she has the financial means to do so.