Published March 15, 2012
DECATUR, Ga. – A Georgia man who was found guilty but mentally ill of killing a man outside a suburban Atlanta preschool was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Hemy Neuman received the sentence Thursday for the 2010 shooting death Russell Sneiderman. DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams called the killing a "planned execution" with no justification.
Neuman supervised Sneiderman's wife Andrea at General Electric, and defense lawyers and prosecutors linked the shooting to an affair between the two. She has denied those allegations.
Neuman's attorneys argued he could not tell the difference between right and wrong during the shooting. Prosecutors had charged him with murder, saying the killing was by a jealous man who wanted Sneiderman's life.
The jury's guilty but mentally ill verdict means Neuman will go to prison but he will get mental health treatment.
Neuman did not show any emotion as the verdict was read.
"This was a senseless murder. It was a savage murder. We believe it deserves the maximum under the law -- life without parole," prosecutor Robert James said during the sentencing hearing.
Neuman, a Georgia Tech graduate and father of three, was a high-ranking manager at General Electric, where he supervised Andrea Sneiderman. 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 shooting and has not been charged.
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.
Russell Sneiderman, a Harvard-educated entrepreneur, was killed shortly after he dropped off the couple's 2-year-old son at a daycare in Dunwoody, a wealthy suburb north of Atlanta. 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.
Neuman's lawyers said during the monthlong 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."
Prosecutors also had few kind words for Andrea Sneiderman. James, the DeKalb County District Attorney, 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 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."
Andrea Sneiderman 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, 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 and waited to attack, prosecutors said. 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.
Days later, Neuman went to Russell Sneiderman's funeral and even visited Andrea Sneiderman's house for a Jewish mourning ceremony, prosecutors said.