Victim in New Brighton deer feeding feud was shot in heart and head, medical examiner testifies

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2014 - 12:14 AM

Scott Stevens was shot in the brain and heart, an assistant medical examiner testified.

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Several bullet holes are visible in the side of the victim's house as well as the door, Tuesday, May 6, in New Brighton.

Photo: David Joles, DML - Star Tribune

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A New Brighton man who was fatally shot this spring in a neighborhood dispute over feeding deer suffered mortal gunshot wounds to his heart and brain, according to testimony Tuesday in Paula Zumberge’s murder trial.

Graphic autopsy photos also were shown in Ramsey County District Court, documenting several buckshot wounds to the right shoulder area, left chest, face and abdomen of Todd G. Stevens, 46.

County assistant medical examiner Victor Froloff testified that Stevens likely lost consciousness within seconds of being shot and died within minutes as blood poured from a gunshot wound to his aorta.

Stevens was killed about 8:30 p.m. on May 5 after a confrontation with neighbors Neal and Paula Zumberge outside his New Brighton home.

Neal Zumberge, 57, is charged with second-degree murder with intent and attempted second-degree murder for allegedly killing Stevens and injuring his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Damerow-Cleven, 48. He is being tried separately at an undetermined date.

Paula Zumberge, 50, is charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree assault. Assistant County Attorney Anna Christie said Paula Zumberge encouraged her husband as he fired four shots.

On day two of Paula Zumberge’s trial Tuesday, Froloff testified that a pellet entered Stevens’ face and lodged in the left side of his brain. Pellets damaged his spinal cord in two places, which would have caused paralysis, Froloff said.

The Zumberge family had been frustrated with Stevens for his habit of feeding deer, according to court and police records, and believed that Neal Zumberge and the family dog had contracted Lyme disease from a deer tick.

The dispute came to a head on May 5 when Damerow-Cleven called police on the Zumberges’ son, Jacob. Jacob Zumberge was wanted by police for a previous incident in which he allegedly threatened to kill Damerow-Cleven and Stevens.

New Brighton and Spring Lake Park police officers who were familiar with the dispute and who responded to the crime scene also testified Tuesday.

New Brighton officer Trevor Hamdorf said that tensions ramped up this spring, prompting him to send an e-mail in April to officers.

“At times, they weren’t 100 percent rational about what they were doing,” Hamdorf said of both households.

In his cross-examination of the officers, Paula Zumberge’s attorney, Gary Wolf, tried to show that the dispute had always been with Neal Zumberge and not his client.

New Brighton police Sgt. Mitchell Singer testified that he responded to the shooting and escorted Damerow-Cleven to an ambulance, asking her about the incident and informing her of Stevens’ death.

“Did she ever bring up Paula Zumberge?” Wolf asked.

“She did not,” Singer said.

“Did she say Paula Zumberge said, ‘Shoot ’em, shoot ’em’?” Wolf asked.

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