ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Neil Zumberge’s attorney told jurors on Monday that his client feared for his family and that the shooting of Todd Stevens last spring was an act of self-defense.

The Ramsey County courtroom in St. Paul was packed as the opening day of testimony began.

One of the first people to take the stand was Jennifer Damerow-Cleven, Stevens’ longtime girlfriend.

She wept as she told jurors that Stevens was a wonderful man and a giving neighbor.

But on May 4, 2014, a dispute over deer feeding led to the end of his life. Zumberge allegedly fired four shots from his home across the street, killing Stevens instantly.

“He was my life partner, a wonderful son and neighbor,” Damerow-Cleven said in court. “He would do anything for anybody.”

Damerow-Cleven said she and Stevens had good relations with the Zumberges for years. But after Zumberge lost his job, things changed.

He took issue with Stevens feeding deer.

Jurors heard Damerow-Cleven’s frantic 911 call, in which she pleaded for help and telling the dispatcher, “I told you guys he was going to kill us.”

One of Zumberge’s attorneys asked Damerow-Cleven if Stevens carried a gun, as Zumberge contends Stevens was armed.

But Damerow-Cleven said Stevens had no permit to carry and always carried his large cellphone in a pouch on his belt.

Defense attorneys Bill Orth and Gary Wolf expect they will wrap up their case after putting Zumberge on the stand.

That could come as early as this time next week.

Bill Hudson

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