MINNEAPOLIS – A suburban Minneapolis man who had a long-running dispute with two neighbors over feeding deer opened fire on the couple and killed one of them, hours after his son was arrested on suspicion of threatening to burn down their house, according to criminal charges filed Wednesday.
Neal Curtis Zumberge, 57, of New Brighton was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder. Prosecutors say he killed his neighbor and wounded the man's girlfriend Monday after the girlfriend called police on Zumberge's adult son — who days earlier had allegedly accused the couple of giving Zumberge Lyme disease by feeding deer in their yard.
The criminal complaint says Zumberge shot the neighbors with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Zumberge is charged in Ramsey County. His son, Jacob Zumberge, 23, was charged in Anoka County with making terroristic threats and fifth-degree assault.
Online court records did not list an attorney for Neal Zumberge. It was not immediately clear if Jacob Zumberge had an attorney.
A message left with Neal Zumberge's wife was not immediately returned. A phone call at another number attached to Zumberge's wife went unanswered.
Zumberge's neighbor, Todd Stevens, 46, was shot multiple times, including in the head and chest. He was dead when officers arrived. The man's longtime girlfriend, 58-year-old Jennifer Damerow-Cleven, was shot in the stomach and survived.
According to the criminal complaints, Stevens and Damerow-Cleven had been playing Bingo at a VFW hall in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, on April 29 when Jacob Zumberge approached them at the bar. Jacob Zumberge asked Stevens to step outside and began yelling at him.
When Stevens went back inside, Jacob Zumberge came in and shoved him, then threatened to burn down their house and kill them, according to court documents.
Spring Lake Park police had a warrant out for Jacob Zumberge's arrest, court documents say.
On Monday, Damerow-Cleven saw Jacob Zumberge at a New Brighton restaurant and called police. He was arrested at about 6 p.m. that day. When Damerow-Cleven returned home more than two hours later, Neal Zumberge's wife began yelling at her, saying, "You put my son in jail," according to the complaint. Stevens came outside as Neal Zumberge allegedly appeared with a shotgun and began shooting.
Damerow-Cleven was able to get inside and call police. When police arrived, she said "He shot us. I knew he was doing to do this!" the complaint said.
Damerow-Cleven was released from the hospital Wednesday, WCCO-TV reported. Back at her home, she told reporters that she told Stevens to run when the shooting began.
"And Todd ran to right there, and Todd said, 'He shot me.' That's the last words he said," Damerow-Cleven said.
The couple had been together for 18 years, she said.
"We spent all our time together. We were so close. He was my life," Damerow-Cleven said, sobbing.
Neal Zumberge admitted he shot Stevens, but said he did not intend to shoot Damerow-Cleven, the complaint said. He told authorities he had a tumultuous relationship with Stevens dating back 15 years.
Neighbors said tension over deer feeding in the neighborhood had been mounting in recent years.
Cathi Williams, a neighbor, told the Star Tribune that both households were "fully armed. ... We were just waiting for the grenade to explode."
The newspaper reported Damerow-Cleven filed a petition for a restraining order against Zumberge last year, saying dead animals had been shot with a BB gun and placed in her front yard.
"I am scared of him," Damerow-Cleven wrote in the petition.