Widow on trial: Inside the day care murder

Story highlights

  • Andrea Sneiderman will soon stand trial, accused of being a party to her husband's killing
  • Her former boss, Hemy Neuman, has been convicted in the shooting death
  • Prosecutors say she and Neuman were involved before the shooting
  • Sneiderman's defense attorneys have strongly denied all of the allegations against her
"Thank you for making time to get together for lunch today. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can see why Andrea is enjoying working with you."
--e-mail from Rusty Sneiderman to Hemy Neuman, August 12, 2010
In the summer of 2010, Russell "Rusty" Sneiderman agreed to help his wife Andrea's boss look for a new job.
After Rusty Sneiderman met Hemy Neuman for the first time on August 12, 2010, he forwarded Neuman's resume to some friends.
"My friend, Hemy Neuman, is currently an executive with General Electric Energy and he is interested in learning more about future career options with growing private equity backed companies," Sneiderman wrote about a week later in an e-mail obtained by In Session.
It was around this same time, according to Neuman, that an angel appeared to him and told him Rusty Sneiderman must die.
Today, nearly three years after the two men met, Hemy Neuman is serving life in prison for Rusty's murder and Andrea Sneiderman, 37, is preparing to stand trial for allegedly being a party to the crime.
The man in the backyard
On the morning of November 10, 2010, Rusty Sneiderman smelled gas in his Atlanta home and went outside to check for a leak. When he found a suspicious person in his yard, he dialed 911.
"There's a man who was sleeping in my backyard. He's running. I think he has a gun in his back pocket and now he's running away," Sneiderman told a dispatcher.
He described the man as Hispanic, with a mustache, a hat and earmuffs. He had no idea that the man was Hemy Neuman.
Neuman would later tell police that he intended to kill Sneiderman that day -- he had purchased a gun and a disguise beforehand -- but he fled when he was spotted.
One hour before Rusty saw Neuman, Andrea Sneiderman allegedly made two calls to Neuman's phone. Thirty minutes after he fled, prosecutors said, they spoke again.
Prosecutors have alleged that Andrea Sneiderman gave Neuman information about Rusty's schedule that day and information about a walking path near the house.
The two men's lives seemed to be on different trajectories. Rusty, a 36-year-old father of two -- Sophia and Ian -- was in the middle of launching a new startup company called Star Voicemail. He was a successful entrepreneur who served on the boards of several charities.
Neuman, in October of 2010, was 47 years old and deeply in debt despite his $170,000 salary at GE. On October 3, he had moved out of the house he shared with his wife of 22 years, Ariela, and their three children.
According to court documents, Neuman spent the second half of October shopping for a gun. In addition to buying the weapon, Neuman attended a gun safety course and practiced shooting at a firing range.
One week after the November 10 incident, Rusty Sneiderman was lying in the parking lot of Dunwoody Prep, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds and gasping for air.
'This guy is bleeding to death out here'
It was a brazen crime.
Around 9:15 a.m. on November 18, 2010, in a busy parking lot outside the preschool and day care center with children in a playground less than 30 feet away, Rusty Sneiderman was shot four times.
The gunshots came just minutes after Sneiderman dropped his own 2-year-old son off at Dunwoody Prep.
Witnesses who heard the gunfire reported seeing a bearded man wearing a dark hoodie walk away from Rusty's body and flee the scene in a silver minivan.
"Somebody's been shot and killed out in front of Dunwoody Prep. The gentleman was driving a silver caravan-type car," one witness said in a 911 call. "He had a hat on and almost like a beard. ... This guy is bleeding to death out here."
According to a medical examiner, Rusty was shot three times in the torso and once with the muzzle of a gun pressed against his jaw.
He was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
According to Andrea Sneiderman, she was initially informed only that there had been an accident. She testified at Neuman's trial that she went to the school first, but nobody there would tell her what happened to her husband.
She said she did not know he had been shot until she arrived at the hospital herself and was informed that he was dead.
However, Rusty's father testified that she told him about the shooting before she went to the hospital. A former close friend also testified that Andrea told her she was on her way to the hospital when she found out Rusty had been shot.
A police officer who was at the scene of the shooting and an emergency room physician both testified that when they saw her, Sneiderman seemed strangely emotionless for a woman who had just lost her husband.
Among the mourners who attended Rusty Sneiderman's funeral was his wife's boss, Hemy Neuman, who even shoveled dirt on Rusty's grave as part of the burial ritual.
A hoodie, a fake beard and a Kia Sedona
While police said from the start that Rusty Sneiderman's shooting was not random, it took them several weeks of gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses to develop a suspect.
The biggest break came when they determined that the getaway vehicle was a silver Kia Sedona that had been rented by Hemy Neuman on November 17.
On January 4, 2011, Neuman was questioned by detectives. In the course of a five-hour interview, Neuman revealed that he was having financial and marital problems, that he traveled with Andrea Sneiderman for work and that he was attracted to her.
Neuman claimed he was at work at the time of the shooting and also suggested the possibility that the murder could have been an al Qaeda hit.
He was arrested after that interview.
Authorities later established a timeline of Neuman's actions on the day of the shooting that indicated he was trying to cover his tracks and create an alibi.
Following Neuman's arrest, Andrea Sneiderman released a statement saying, "I was thankful and relieved when the police made an arrest but I was shocked to learn that the man charged with the murder was my former boss, a person we thought was a friend of our family."
On February 8, 2011, Neuman was indicted for malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He initially pleaded not guilty.
'Good old fashioned cold-blooded malice murder'
Several months before his February 2012 trial, Neuman changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. As a result, the jury was left to decide not whether Neuman shot Rusty Sneiderman but whether he knew right from wrong when he did.
Prosecutors were dismissive of Neuman's claim of insanity.
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said in his opening statement, "Hemy Neuman killed Rusty Sneiderman because he wanted his wife, because he wanted his money, because he wanted his life, period. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not insanity. That is not mental illness. In Georgia, in courtrooms, we call that good old-fashioned cold-blooded malice murder."
Several mental health experts testified for Neuman's defense, claiming that he was delusional, psychotic and bipolar at the time of the shooting.
However, numerous witnesses testified that they never saw any indication that Neuman was mentally ill.
Andrea Sneiderman was the first witness called by the prosecution at Neuman's trial. Attorneys from both sides grilled her extensively about her relationship with Neuman and her behavior surrounding her husband's death. Her exchanges with prosecutors and defense attorneys were combative at times.
Sneiderman testified that Neuman made romantic advances in the months before the shooting, which "bothered" her, but because he was her boss, she was afraid to report it. She insisted they did not have an affair.
Sneiderman described herself as a victim of Neuman, who stalked her and then ambushed her husband when she rejected him.
"We're talking about a self-proclaimed delusional individual who killed my husband," she said when questioned about one of Neuman's statements.
Phone records showed that Andrea tried to call Neuman six times between the shooting and her arrival at the hospital. The prosecutor asked why she did not try to call her husband even once during that time.
She testified that she was calling Neuman to alert him that she had a family crisis, and all she knew at the time was that Rusty had "an accident."
"They just told me something had happened to Rusty. What are the chances he's going to be answering his cell phone?" she said.
Sneiderman was also questioned about why she expressed suspicions about Neuman's involvement in the shooting to friends but not to police. Prosecutors alleged that she was trying to protect Neuman.
She testified that a close friend told her the idea that he was responsible was "ludicrous." She also said that she was afraid Neuman was monitoring her e-mail.
"It was unfathomable and unbelievable that it could be him," Sneiderman said. "Someone who proposed to care about me, care about Rusty, care about my family, be a normal guy, be my boss, and he murdered my husband."
Even after she was banned from the courthouse for making other witnesses uncomfortable, the figure of Andrea Sneiderman loomed over Neuman's trial.
Neuman's attorneys zeroed in on her in their closing arguments.
"This case is about two good men," defense attorney Doug Peters told the jury, "and one really bad woman: Andrea Sneiderman."
"The gun in this case was in Hemy's hand, but the trigger, I respectfully suggest, was pulled by Andrea Sneiderman," Peters said.
Prosecutors also expressed suspicion in their closing argument that Sneiderman was a "co-conspirator" in the shooting.
The jury found Neuman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt but mentally ill on March 15, 2012, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He is currently incarcerated at Augusta State Medical Prison.
"We have strong beliefs about Mrs. Sneiderman's involvement. The question is whether or not we can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt," James said just an hour after Neuman's conviction.
Asked what he would say to those who wanted to see Andrea Sneiderman charged, the district attorney responded, "I'd tell them to stay tuned."
'Betrayal' in Greenville
Much of the evidence that prosecutors have claimed suggested a romantic relationship between Andrea Sneiderman and Hemy Neuman involved business trips the two took in the months before the murder.
Andrea began working at General Electric in the spring of 2010. In May, she and Neuman traveled to Melbourne, Florida, together.
In June, they went to Norfolk, Virginia, where he opened up to her about his allegedly abusive childhood.
On a trip to Minden, Nevada, in July, he gave her a love poem. She responded by telling him she would never leave or divorce Rusty.
Later in July, Sneiderman went to Longmont, Colorado, for training. Neuman also traveled to Longmont, where hotel clerks testified he claimed Andrea was his new wife. Prosecutors alleged that they became physically intimate on this trip, but Sneiderman denied that.
Two trips Sneiderman and Neuman made to Greenville, South Carolina, could lie at the heart of the case. What exactly happened there is disputed, but after the first trip on August 26, Neuman sent Sneiderman an e-mail apologizing for causing her "so much pain."
In response, she wrote, "Your apology is heartfelt but does not make the ongoing pain go away that I now have to repent and live with the rest of my life. Not sure what I was thinking. I'm also feeling that we may have ruined it. ... I'm not sure how to live with this."
When asked at Neuman's trial what happened in Greenville that led to this exchange, Sneiderman testified, "We were holding each other's hands and that's it. It may sound worse than it is, but to me that was a betrayal."
Neuman told a defense expert they watched a movie together in the same bed, she asked him to touch her, they kissed and he may have masturbated.
The two traveled to England and Scotland for a week in mid-September. Then they returned to Greenville on October 21.
A bartender who worked at a nightclub in Greenville testified that they looked like a couple, groping each other and kissing on the dance floor. Neuman claimed to a friend that they were physically intimate on that trip but that Andrea broke things off afterward.
Days before the October trip, Neuman attended a gun show in Conyers, Georgia. After he returned, he contacted several individuals and gun shops about buying a gun.
On October 31, according to prosecutors, he met a man at the Atlanta Fish Market and purchased a Bersa Thunder .40 caliber handgun.
An alleged conspiracy to kill
Andrea Sneiderman was arrested on August 2, 2012. The initial eight-count indictment -- charging her with malice murder, attempted murder, racketeering, insurance fraud, making false statements and perjury -- laid out her alleged actions in furtherance of a conspiracy to kill her husband.
The document claimed that Sneiderman and Neuman "conspired together to murder Rusty Sneiderman so that they could enjoy a life together, eliminate Neuman's debt problems and fully benefit from the assets the Sneidermans had acquired, as well as the proceeds of Rusty Sneiderman's life insurance policies."
The indictment noted that Andrea received the full payout on Rusty Sneiderman's $2 million life insurance policies and that his bank accounts had a balance in excess of $960,000 at the time of his death.
Prosecutors alleged that Sneiderman provided Neuman with her husband's schedule for November 18, 2010. They claimed that she misled police in interviews on November 19 and 24 by not revealing her relationship with Neuman and by indicating that other people may have committed the murder.
According to the indictment, Sneiderman told two friends in December 2010 that she thought Neuman killed her husband, but she did not give that information to police.
Prosecutors announced they would not be seeking the death penalty for the murder charge, but Sneiderman could face life in prison without parole if convicted.
Three weeks after her arrest, Sneiderman posted $500,000 bond and was released from jail. A judge ordered her to remain under house arrest and her assets -- including the $2 million from Rusty's life insurance-- were frozen.
After the indictment, Doug Peters, one of Neuman's trial attorneys, said, "This indictment today is clear confirmation of exactly what our defense was. Andrea was an adulterer, liar and master manipulator."
The charges against Sneiderman have changed since the initial indictment. A second 16-count indictment was filed in February 2013. On April 25, prosecutors filed a revised 16-count indictment.
They are no longer alleging attempted murder, racketeering or insurance fraud, but they have added charges of felony murder and aggravated assault. The revised indictment also does not include any reference to a financial motive for the murder.
Instead, the document alleges Sneiderman was "a party to the crime" in the shooting. Under Georgia law, that term can apply to anyone who "intentionally advises, encourages, hires, counsels, or procures another to commit the crime."
Defense attorneys have complained that the charges in the indictment are too vague to disprove. However, the document makes some specific allegations related to Sneiderman's behavior after the murder and her statements to police and prosecutors.
Andrea Sneiderman is accused of:
• destroying text messages and a record of telephone calls exchanged between herself and Neuman on the date of the murder;
• concealing her romantic relationship with Neuman from police;
• concealing her knowledge of Neuman's culpability in the murder;
• falsely telling Dunwoody police that she never suspected Neuman was involved prior to December 28, 2010;
• denying to police that Neuman was in Longmont, Colorado, with her in July 2010;
• falsely telling a detective that she made it clear to Neuman that she did not want him to pursue her romantically;
• falsely stating in court and to police that she had no knowledge that her husband had been shot prior to her arrival at Dunwoody Prep on November 18, 2010;
• falsely testifying that she was not romantically involved with Neuman;
• falsely testifying that none of Neuman's feelings for her were ever returned;
• falsely testifying that she did not share a hotel room with Neuman in Longmont, Colorado;
• falsely testifying that she believed Neuman was in Longmont on business when she was there;
• falsely testifying that she did not kiss Neuman while in Greenville, South Carolina;
• falsely testifying that she did not immediately report her suspicions of Neuman to police because her mother was concerned for her safety.
According to the Dunwoody Crier newspaper, when defense attorneys argued that the latest indictment lacked specific information, prosecutor Lee Grant stated, "We gave them the information. They just don't like the information we gave them."
Jury selection for Sneiderman's trial is scheduled to begin on July 29. The Dunwoody Crier reported that Judge Gregory Adams said in May that he planned to call a pool of 200 potential jurors to fill out questionnaires.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
The attorneys in the case are under a gag order, but Sneiderman's defense attorneys have strongly denied all of the allegations against her in court filings and in pretrial hearings.
The third man
At a hearing in November 2012, then-prosecutor Don Geary floated a new theory about Rusty Sneiderman's murder, one that could turn the original trial's alleged love triangle into a love quadrangle.
"Evidence is starting to come up that might show that it was not for Mr. Neuman to be with the defendant but for someone else," Geary said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.
That "someone else," Geary suggested, was Joseph Dell.
Dell was with Sneiderman when she was taken into custody on August 2, 2012. She made 58 calls to him during her three weeks in jail.
In one of those calls, which were recorded, Dell professed his love for Andrea, to which she reportedly responded, "I don't know what to say."
Sneiderman's criminal attorneys have spoken vaguely about the nature of their relationship in court, insisting that it is irrelevant. They called Geary's claim "an incredible fantasy."
Sneiderman's civil attorneys, in a wrongful death suit filed by Rusty's brother, have acknowledged in court documents that Dell did tell her he loved her while she was in jail, but they stated the two did not engage in sexual acts prior to Dell's divorce from his wife.
The role Dell may play in Sneiderman's murder trial remains unclear. Despite comments by the former district attorney suggesting Andrea's relationship with him was the true motive behind the murder, Dell is in no way referenced in either the first or final indictments.
Sneiderman's attorneys have maintained the two were not in a relationship prior to the shooting, and Dell himself has reportedly asserted the same thing in a blog post.
Civil attorney Mark Trigg suggested in court documents that the only reason prosecutors named Dell was to try to manipulate the imprisoned Neuman into turning on Sneiderman in jealousy and testifying against her.
Prosecutors did place Dell on the list of potential witnesses for Sneiderman's trial, but defense attorneys have maintained he has no relevance to the case.
"I am satisfied there is nothing that Joseph Dell could possibly testify to ... that would have anything to do with any issue in the indictment," attorney Tom Clegg said at a hearing earlier this year, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The judge ruled that Sneiderman could have contact with Dell despite his being on the witness list after the defense argued that it was wrong to deprive her of companionship as she prepares for trial.
In one recorded jail conversation, Dell and Sneiderman allegedly speculated about who might play her in a movie about her life.
"I was thinking if Sandra Bullock wasn't so old, she'd be a good choice," Sneiderman said, according to the Dunwoody Crier.
As her trial approaches, though, it is Andrea Sneiderman who will soon find herself on camera in a Georgia courtroom fighting for her freedom.