ATLANTA, Ga. - The murder trial of a Georgia engineer charged with killing his colleague and alleged lover's husband began today in Atlanta with starkly different tales of romance, betrayal and insanity in attorneys' opening statements.
Hemy Neuman, 48, was a high-level operations manager at General Electric when he shot and killed Andrea Sneiderman's husband Rusty Sneiderman, 36, in the parking lot of the Sneiderman's son's preschool.
Andrea Sneiderman worked for Neuman at General Electric and they were allegedly involved in a hot-and-cold affair.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution denies that Neuman pulled the trigger and killed Sneiderman, but they tell divergent stories of what led to the killing.
Neuman pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Neuman's defense attorney Doug Peters said in his opening statements that Neuman believed he had been visited by an angel and demon in the forms of Olivia Newton-John and Barry White, respectively, that told him that Sneiderman's children were his and that he needed to protect them by killing her husband.
"This is a case of two good men," Peters said. "On Nov. 18, 2010, Hemy Neuman shot and killed Rusty Sneiderman. And on that day, the lives of those two men, the lives of their families, their hopes, dreams, and futures, were shattered in broken pieces on the ground that could never be put back together again."
Peters said mental illness runs in Neuman's family and his troubled past could be traced back to his family being taken to Auschwitz by the Nazis, a violent father and boarding school.
Neuman eventually married and became the father of three children --21-year-old twins and an 18-year-old daughter.
Andrea Sneiderman worked for Neuman at GE and in May 2010, they took their first business trip together and began having conversations about their personal lives.
"Hemy fell for Andrea," Peters said. "If you want to call it infatuation, love, whatever, he fell."
Peters went on to describe numerous romantic business trips, hours spent on the phone and hundreds of personal text messages exchanged between the two.
The defense contends that although Andrea Sneiderman at times said she would never leave her husband, she encouraged Neuman to envision a life with her and her children. These messages and his troubled background, the defense said, were what led Neuman to hear demons and angels that commanded him to murder Rusty Sneiderman.
Andrea Sneiderman was in court and shook her head and let out sporadic sobs as Peters spoke.
"Marry me," Neuman wrote in a text message read by Peters. "You think I'm crazy and your intentions are clear. Sleep on it. I will give you, Sophia and Ian the world. Together we can make it all work. Marry me."
In an email, Andrea Sneiderman wrote to Neuman, "Desire versus reality is a world I'm trying to ignore because I have to. So sorry, not fair to you, I have other thoughts but not the time right now."
"We know what happened; this case is about why. ... How could this have ever possibly taken place?" Peters asked the jurors. "This man should not be released, he should be confined as the law provides, and held as the law provides. This man is not guilty by reason of insanity."
The prosecution told a very different story.
"It's a case of violence where a man wanted someone else's wife, so he killed her husband," DeKalb County Chief Assistant District Attorney Don Geary said in opening statements today. "He got caught."
The prosecution painted Neuman as a calculating killer who planned Sneiderman's shooting for months -- going to gun shows, taking a gun safety course, going to target practice, renting a car for the shooting and wearing a disguise.
Geary also painted a picture of Rusty Sneiderman's last morning and how unsuspecting he was as he dropped his 2-year-old son Ian at a Dunwoody day care.