Murder trial leads to unlikely friendships in the ‘Twitterverse’
Courtesy: Reporter Newspapers
DUNWOODY, GA (REPORTER NEWSPAPERS) -
At 6 p.m., David Weinberg sits alone at a table for 10.
Straight from work, his shirtsleeves are rolled up and he casually sips a beer as he eyes the door of a Dunwoody bar waiting for the others to trickle in.
He isn't sure exactly who he's waiting for – some could be strangers, some could be friends – but the one thing they have in common is a mutual fascination with what has been dubbed the "Dunwoody day care murder."
Group members found one another by searching Twitter for updates on the Hemy Neuman trial. They began to follow each other on the social networking site, using tweets to comment or ask questions about the case.
In March, Neuman was sentenced to life in prison for killing Rusty Sneiderman outside a Dunwoody day care center in 2010.
The case picked up again when Rusty Sneiderman's widow, Andrea Sneiderman, was arrested Aug. 2 and charged with being a co-conspirator in his death.
There was so much interest that the group graduated from Twitter banter into a regular meet-up Weinberg has dubbed the "Dunwoody Murder Trial Drinking Club."
"It's tough to have a particularly deep discussion on Twitter due to the 140 character limit," Weinberg said.
Weinberg said during the club's past five meetings, anywhere from five to 12 people have showed up. At the Aug. 22 meeting, there are eight.
It's an odd bunch. A few are connected to the case in some way. One man works at GE – the same company where Andrea Sneiderman and Hemy Neuman worked. Another woman didn't want to share her name because she is "two degrees from Kevin Bacon" with someone involved.
Others are just intrigued, like Larry Peck, a longtime Dunwoody resident who's confident Andrea Sneiderman will be found guilty. Rachel Sample is an attorney who opined on the District Attorney's strategy over her macaroni and cheese. ("They are holding their cards very close to the vest," she said.)
"Every time we have different faces," Weinberg said. "It's always fun."
Neuman's murder trial received national attention. Reporters from "Dateline," "20/20" and "Good Morning America" swarmed the DeKalb County Courthouse, hoping to snag a seat in Judge Gregory A. Adams' modest courtroom.
Weinberg said he expects the same will be true when Andrea Sneiderman goes to trial.
"I think there's far more interest in the Andrea Sneiderman matter than the Hemy Neuman matter because it's just a juicier story," Weinberg said. "Regardless of the outcome or merits of the case, it's a much juicier set of facts."
Neuman pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, meaning he admitted to shooting Rusty Sneiderman but claims he was mentally ill and did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time.
With no questions about who the shooter was, attorneys on both side spent much of the trial focusing on Andrea Sneiderman.
Neuman's defense team claimed he was in love with Andrea Sneiderman, who took advantage of his fragile mental state to manipulate him into killing her husband. Prosecutors claimed Neuman was not mentally ill, but conspired with Andrea Sneiderman to kill Rusty Sneiderman so the two could be together.
Andrea Sneiderman denied that she had an affair with Neuman and said she was not involved in her husband's death.
Like any good soap opera, the Neuman episode ended with a cliff-hanger.
The same day Neuman was convicted, District Attorney Robert James announced that he would begin investigating Andrea Sneiderman.
She spent roughly three weeks in jail after a DeKalb County Grand Jury returned an eight-count indictment that charged her with murder, racketeering, perjury and insurance fraud in connection with her husband's death. The indictment claims Andrea Sneiderman conspired with Neuman to kill Rusty Sneiderman so they "could enjoy a life together, eliminate Neuman's debt problems, and fully benefit from the assets the Sneidermans had acquired as well as the proceeds of Rusty Sneiderman's life insurance policies."
Andrea Sneiderman was released from prison Aug. 23 on $500,000 bond. She will live under house arrest at her parents' Roswell home. Her arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 8.
Her all-star defense team, which includes former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, has said they believe Andrea Sneiderman will be fully exonerated at trial and she looks forward to her day in court.
At first, Weinberg said he didn't know if the Dunwoody Murder Trial Drinking Club would be a success. But when the group first met, they talked for 2 1/2 hours about the ins and outs of the case, he said.
"I actually came with a list of talking points two-pages long, just in case there was a lull in the conversation," Weinberg said. "I didn't need to look at it once."
Weinberg, who is an attorney, said he enjoys looking at the case through a legal lens and putting himself in the shoes of a criminal defense lawyer.
For others, it's just a true story with a fascinating set of circumstances.
"What's so interesting about this case is it has all the juicy facts that seem so stereotypical of something Hollywood would write. It doesn't happen in real life. And if it does happen in real life, it doesn't happen in an affluent suburb of Atlanta in the Jewish community," Weinberg said.
Weinberg said he realizes organizing social events around a murder may sound callous. But the people in the club take it seriously, he said.
"Underneath all of it, what often gets lost… is Rusty Sneiderman lost his life and left two kids that were so young at the time. Their lasting memories of him will be minimal, if any," he said.
"It would be a shallow thing to get together and focus on the defendant and forget about the victim."
The group sometimes starts its meetings with a simple toast: "Justice for Rusty."
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