Ex-GE Manager Claims Insanity in Atlanta Killing of Former JPMorgan Banker
By Laurence Viele Davidson – Mar 9, 2012 12:30 AM ET
Hemy Neuman, then a GE Energy manager, put on a fake beard, drove a rented minivan to a suburban Atlanta daycare facility and shot an ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) banker dropping off his son, defense lawyers said.
Neuman’s attorneys have told jurors in Georgia state court in Decatur that their client was temporarily insane and unable to stop himself from killing Russell Sneiderman, the husband of his subordinate at GE. Prosecutors in the trial, which has garnered intense media scrutiny in the Atlanta area, contend Neuman was aware he was committing murder that day in front of the Dunwoody Prep preschool.
According to testimony this week from Adriana Flores, a forensic psychologist, Neuman was sexually obsessed with Sneiderman’s wife, Andrea. The defendant believed he was acting on orders from an angel with the voice of singer Olivia Newton John and a demon who sounded like Barry White, Flores said.
Neuman, 49, was indicted last year with one count each of murder “with malice aforethought” and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. DeKalb County District Attorney Bob James has said he will seek a life sentence without parole if he’s convicted. Neuman’s lawyers finished presenting witnesses yesterday, and prosecutors are set to call rebuttal witnesses today. The case may go to the jury next week.
According to a Sept. 16, 2011, search warrant, police had cause to believe Neuman was having an extramarital affair with Andrea Sneiderman, which may have provided the motive for the November 2010 killing, they said. According to a search warrant affidavit, detectives sought anything showing Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman might have collaborated in the crime. Sneiderman hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
Supervised 5,000 Workers
Neuman told police detectives in a recorded interview shown in court that, before the killing, he supervised 5,000 workers at the General Electric Co. (GE) unit’s quality systems division, which had an $800 million budget, in Atlanta. Andrea Sneiderman worked in software systems support.
The prosecution may be the highest profile case in the Atlanta area since that of Wayne Williams in 1982, who was suspected of 29 child murders and was convicted of killing two adults. It has also become a local attraction, with members of the Red Hat Society, the international women’s group with 40,000 chapters dedicated to fun and fulfillment according to its website, stopping by the courthouse last week on their way to tour the state capitol in Atlanta.
Murder, Sex, Insanity
“You have murder, you have sex, you have insanity,” said Roy Peter Clark, a media analyst at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. “You have a daycare center, you have a disguise, you have the intersection of normal upper middle class life with some of the most destructive elements of society.”
Those factors have made “otherwise responsible citizens sit up and take notice,” he said of the trial.
Flores testified Neuman told her that angels and demons guided his actions.
“He did not have the capacity to know right from wrong” when he shot Sneiderman, said Flores. She said she diagnosed him as bipolar and psychotic and called him “delusional.”
Neuman hasn’t testified during the trial. Wearing a dark sweater yesterday, he sat as another forensic psychiatrist, Tracey Marks, described the affair that Neuman believed he had with Sneiderman. Marks said the belief was a sign of mania.
Prosecutors have called witnesses to show jurors the defendant planned the murder in front of the day care facility.
Jan DaSilva, who sold Neuman the gun allegedly used in the shooting, testified the defendant told him, “don’t ever have a mistress.”
Witnesses who said they saw the shooting included chiropractor Craig Kuhlmeir and his wife, Aliyah Stotter. After the disguised assailant shot Sneiderman, he walked slowly back to the van and then sped off, they testified. In court, they identified Neuman as the shooter.
The calm nature of the shooting and how the assailant left the scene indicate Neuman knew he was committing a crime, prosecutors argued.
Police in Dunwoody arrested Neuman after determining he had rented a silver Kia Sedona matching the one seen at the location of the crime. He rented the van the day before he killed 36- year-old Sneiderman, according to court papers.
In the recorded interview with Dunwoody police that was played in court, Neuman said he participated in the burial of Russell Sneiderman, including casting a handful of dirt on the grave.
Andrea Sneiderman testified at the trial that she didn’t have an affair with Neuman. She didn’t return calls seeking comment on the trial this week. Seth Kirschenbaum, a lawyer for Sneiderman, didn’t return a call seeking comment yesterday on the case.
Marks, the defense’s psychiatrist, said Andrea Sneiderman pulled Neuman in emotionally and then pushed him away. Marks testified she reviewed dozens of e-mails between Neuman and Sneiderman. In some, Sneiderman said she regretted some things they did during out-of-town trips, Marks said. Then, Sneiderman would complain about her husband being an absentee father to their two children and engage Neuman to discuss her problems, Marks said.
Such conversations led the emotionally fragile Neuman to become delusional and believe he was the father of Sneiderman’s children and that he should protect them, Marks said. The day of the shooting, Neuman knew right from wrong “globally” while at the same time being delusional in thinking that killing Russell Sneiderman was the best way to protect the children, according to Marks.
‘Neuman is Sick’
“Mr. Neuman is sick,” Doug Peters, his defense lawyer, said in court.
Howard Masto and Kenneth Darling, spokesmen for GE Energy, didn’t respond to voice mails or e-mails seeking comment on the case after regular business hours yesterday.
The burden in the trial is on the defense to prove insanity, said Charles Patrick Ewing, a law school professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Less than 1 percent of criminal cases involve a temporary insanity defense and only a quarter to a third of those defendants prevail, he said.
The legal definition of insanity also differs from the medical definition of mentally ill, meaning that even a schizophrenic wouldn’t be found legally insane if he was aware that what he was doing was wrong, said Ewing, the author of “Insanity: Murder, Madness, and the Law.”
“Any advance planning or fleeing a crime scene undermines an insanity defense,” he said.
“I tell my students you have to be crazy to plead insanity,” he said. Even “if you win, you face being locked up for life.”
The case is the State v. Neuman, 11CR1364-5, DeKalb County Superior Court (Decatur, Georgia)
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