(DECATUR, Ga.) — A psychologist for the defense in the murder trial of a man who is accused of fatally shooting his then-employee’s husband told a jury Thursday that she believed the defendant Hemy Neuman was insane and thus not legally responsible for the killing.
Neuman, 49, is charged with shooting and killing Rusty Sneiderman, a 36-year-old Harvard graduate and entrepreneur, in the parking lot of the Sneidermans’ son’s suburban Atlanta preschool on Nov. 18, 2010. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
In testimony at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Decatur, Ga., Adriana Flores said Neuman had suffered undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder with psychosis since his early teens.
Neuman had also experienced delusions, and had erotomania, meaning that thought he was having an affair with Andrea Sneiderman, the victim’s wife, she added.
Flores also said Neuman had a rescue delusion in which he believed he had to save Sneiderman’s children, Ian and Sophia, from their father. He told her he had been visited by a “she-demon” who told him the Sneidermans’ children were his.
“He believed he was the father of the children, they were his children and were in danger,” Flores told the court. “It was his duty to rescue them, to protect them by killing Rusty, then he could be with his children.”
Flores testified that Sneiderman manipulated Neuman, describing the relationship as “more push and pull, I want you, I don’t want you … .”
The case has drawn national attention, in part because of the prosecution and defense’s tough questioning of the victim’s widow, who is not on trial.
Witness testimony last week revealed Andrea Sneiderman may have been involved in an affair with Neuman – an engineer who was her boss at GE Energy, that she gave conflicting statements about when she learned of her husband’s death and that she delayed in alerting police when she realized Neuman may have been the alleged killer.
Andrea Sneiderman has not been charged in connection with her husband’s death, and she has denied any affair with Neuman, but has been the focus of censure in the court.
She has been barred from the courtroom for the duration of the trial for inappropriate interaction with a witness.
The prosecution has 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.
But his attorney, Doug Peters, said in his opening statements that Neuman believed he had been visited by an angel resembling Olivia Newton-John and a demon resembling Barry White, who told him that Sneiderman’s children were his and that he needed to protect them by killing Rusty Sneiderman.
In testimony Wednesday, Neuman’s younger sister, Monique Metsch, told jurors that her father had been abusive to Neuman when they were children. That rough childhood marked the start of Neuman’s mental illness, she said.
Their father would kick, hit, slap and whip Neuman, she said.
Through her attorney, Neuman’s estranged wife cast doubt on the claims of mental illness.
“My client did not see any signs of a mental illness, just the many signs of a man caught cheating,” the attorney, Esther Panitch, told ABC News.
Another psychiatrist – who spent three hours meeting with Neuman in jail to assess his mental state – also testified Wednesday. Dr. Julie Rand Dorney told the court that Neuman showed “some possible psychosis,” and that she wasn’t sure whether the alleged affair was real or not.
“[Neuman] would at one point say he had sex with this woman and at later points when I asked him if he was having an affair with her, he would say, ‘I don’t know, I guess if she says it didn’t happen, I guess it didn’t happen,'” Dorney testified.
The trial is expected to conclude early next week.
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