DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — Andrea Sneiderman was a happily married mother devastated by her husband's killing, not the woman prosecutors described as engaged in a "forbidden romance" with the boss who fatally shot her spouse outside a preschool, defense attorneys said Monday.
The contrasting portraits of Sneiderman emerged during opening statements in her trial on charges of lying under oath and hindering the investigation into her husband's death. Prosecutors initially said Sneiderman arranged her husband's killing, but murder charges against her were dropped.
Sneiderman's husband, 36-year-old Rusty Sneiderman, was fatally shot in November 2010 outside a suburban Atlanta preschool. Andrea Sneiderman's former boss Hemy Neuman was convicted in the killing in March 2012, but he was found to be mentally ill.
The 37-year-old Sneiderman has pleaded not guilty and has repeatedly denied any romantic relationship with Neuman.
DeKalb County prosecutor Kellie Hill told the jury that evidence in the case will show that soon after Andrea Sneiderman took a job at General Electric, she formed a friendship with Neuman that quickly blossomed into a romantic relationship. But because she was married with young children, she felt conflicted about their relationship and was hot and cold with Neuman, Hill said.
Emails the state plans to present show "she feels torn between her reality and her desires," Hill said.
Andrea Sneiderman had willingly participated in a relationship with Neuman, sharing deep personal secrets with him, sending him photos of her children, and sharing kisses and other physical contact with him during business trips, Hill said. But she failed to tell police about her relationship with Neuman and failed to tell them she suspected he might be involved, Hill said.
"If the police had known about the relationship, they would have known why someone wanted Rusty dead," she said.
Sneiderman also lied under oath during Neuman's trial last year, denying the romantic relationship and lying about when she found out her husband had been shot, Hill said. As she was driving to the preschool after getting a call from an employee there about an emergency, she called her father-in-law and told him his son had been shot, even though no one had told her that yet, Hill said.
"The evidence will show a forbidden romance that ends in murder, silence despite her suspicion, and lies to conceal the truth from her family, from her friends, from the police and from a jury," Hill said as she urged the jury to find Sneiderman guilty.
Defense attorney Tom Clegg told jurors that Sneiderman told police the day after her husband's killing that Neuman had tried to break up her family.
She was happily married, brushed aside advances from Neuman at work and never complained to human resources because she didn't want to create problems for herself and couldn't imagine he would do harm, Clegg said.
"The bottom line is Hemy Neuman was a pest, Hemy Neuman was a nuisance. Hemy Neuman, to this woman, was not a threat," Clegg said.
Sneiderman cooperated with police and suggested Neuman might have been involved, Clegg said.
She was so broken up over her husband's death that, on what would have been their 10th wedding anniversary, she put on her wedding dress and went to the synagogue in Florida where they got married, hoping to feel his spirit, Clegg said.
The state called several witnesses Monday, including a waitress who said she served drinks to Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman in Greenville, S.C., in October 2010, and a hotel front desk clerk from Longmont, Colo. The state also showed several video clips of Andrea Sneiderman's testimony from Neuman's trial.
In one video clip, Sneiderman is shown talking about a business trip she and Neuman took to Greenville, S.C. She testified they had dinner and then went to a bar. They had one or two drinks, she got up and danced alone and then he joined her on the dance floor and twirled her, she testified. They had no contact other than partner dancing, she said.
The state called Christine Olivera, a bartender who was working that night. Sneiderman seemed upset when they arrived and took her cellphone with her to the bathroom, Olivera said. When she came back to the bar, she had sipped her drink and seemed to cheer up, Olivera said. Neuman led Sneiderman onto the dance floor and after a short while, Sneiderman danced flirtatiously, as if she were seducing Neuman, Olivera said. The two kissed more than once and eventually left the bar in each other's arms, pausing to kiss on the sidewalk, Olivera testified.
In a video clip from Neuman's trial, Sneiderman is seen testifying that Neuman was in Longmont, Colo., at the same time she was there for work in July 2010 and that she believed he was there for work. But in an email exchange from that time that she reads aloud, Neuman tells her he was not there for business. When a lawyer asks her about that, she says she supposes he was there to see her, maybe to stalk her.
The state called Brady Blackburn, a front desk clerk from the hotel where Sneiderman stayed in Colorado. In an employee log from the hotel, there is a message from another clerk saying Neuman called and instructing Blackburn to read a short love note to Andrea Sneiderman. Blackburn also testified that hotel records showed that he checked Sneiderman into her room and that her booking was modified from one guest to two.