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, 49, 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.
"Ian enjoyed spending time with his father and spending time with his friends at daycare, didn't know that shortly his loving father, his hero, would be gunned down," Geary said. "Ian didn't know that he was about to see his father for the last time. Ian didn't know that there would be gunshots and that would be the end.
"As Rusty walks to car, Hemy Neuman approaches him, walking towards him, and shoots him three times -- here, here, and here," Geary said as he demonstrated the motions. "As Rusty falls in the parking lot, dying, Hemy Neuman isn't satisfied. He walks up and at contact puts the 40 caliber on Rusty's neck and fires one last time."
Geary expressed his skepticism at the idea that Neuman, an engineer who managed more than 5,000 engineers and an $800 million budget, decided to kill a man without question after being visited by angels and demons resembling celebrities.
"Then this man who didn't know the difference between right or wrong, gets in his van and drives off quickly to get lost in the morning rush hour traffic," the prosecutor said.
Geary said Neuman "doesn't come close" to meeting the requirements for legal insanity.
Esther Panitch, the attorney for Neuman's estranged wife Reilly, has closely followed the development of the case and was taken aback by the defense as well.
"Visions of Olivia Newton John?" Panitch asked. "Really, are we talking 'Grease' or 'Xanadu'? It's hard to imagine a client so arrogant that he believes angels and demons will go over on a jury. I've met with him and he thinks he's the smartest man in the room. It may be his first murder trial, but not for me, the state, or the defense."
Before the trial began, Rusty Sneiderman's family spoke with Jodie Fleischer of ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta and said they do not believe the defense is legitimate.
"I think this is his ultimate 'Hail Mary' pass," Rusty's sister-in-law Lisa Sneiderman said. "I don't think he has a shot in hell."
Rusty's parents, Don and Marilyn Sneiderman, also spoke with WSB, saying that whatever defense Neuman presents is of little concern to them.
"He's one of those people that doesn't really need to exist," Don Sneiderman said. "So, I don't care what he knows, because whatever it is, it won't make any difference to Rusty and it won't make any difference to me. ... Nothing's going to bring him back. We don't know what justice is. Maybe when we have it, we'll know what it is."
Heather Whitley contributed to this report.