DECATUR, Ga. - The defense team in the Andrea Sneiderman perjury case scored points Thursday morning as the lead detective on the case admitted making several mistakes during the investigation.
Attorney Tom Clegg grilled Dunwoody Police Detective Andrew Thompson on the stand. Thompson acknowledged it took him nearly two months to arrest the killer, even though he had his name since day one.
The Rusty Sneiderman case was Thompson's first homicide investigation as lead detective.
The defense team played an audio recording of Andrea Sneiderman's interview with police the day after her husband's death.
During that conversation, she very clearly gave detectives the name of her boss, Hemy
Neuman, as someone who wanted to break up her family.
Clegg: "Did you ask her if Hemy Neuman's name was in her contacts on her phone?"
Thompson: "No I did not."
Clegg: "Why on earth not?"
Thompson: "I made a mistake."
Clegg: "You were ready to move on to a new subject without asking virtually anything about it, weren't you?"
Thompson: "Yes, that's correct, because Andrea minimized the contact."
Clegg: "So it is her fault that you didn't do your job?"
Thompson: "It's her fault that she lied about the contact."
Thompson said he never actually asked Andrea Sneiderman if she'd had an affair, and he got the impression she was downplaying Hemy Neuman, deliberately steering police toward other suspects instead.
The detective said he failed to check Neuman's alibi, or even try to speak with
him, until a month later, when his name came up on a list of people who rented minivans matching the one used in the crime.
Prosecutors initially charged Andrea Sneiderman with helping to plan her husband's murder, but backed away from those charges in the days before jury selection. She spent nearly a year on house arrest prior to the trial.
She is currently facing 13 counts, all of which stem from alleged lies she told police during the investigation and sworn testimony she gave while on the stand during Hemy Neuman's murder trial. He is serving a life sentence in prison for the crime.
Jurors also spent much of the day watching a
3 1/2-hour video recording of Andrea Sneiderman's second police interview, conducted less than a week after her husband's murder.
The defense team says it shows how willing Sneiderman was to cooperate with investigators, answering every question they asked.
But the detective acknowledged he did not ask many relevant questions regarding Hemy Neuman or his relationship with Andrea, because he said she misled him during their earlier conversation, toward other potential suspects and thus away from Neuman.
"I did not approach her strictly as a solid suspect, but was trying to balance out suspect and the wife of a victim who's going through a lot of emotions and my not have anything to do with it," said Thompson on the stand.
He acknowledged never actually asking Sneiderman if she had an affair with Neuman, but said he started the interview by making it clear he needed to know everything about her personal life, even sordid details.
He's heard on the video saying, "It goes back to being honest about everything no matter how bad it sounds. If you don't tell me voluntarily or because and I end up finding out later from somebody else and can verify it as true, it could be an issue."
Andrea Sneiderman appeared to be emotional and even broke into tears in court while watching some portions of the video.
However, her demeanor on the recording was for the most part upbeat. She talked excessively during the interview, volunteering hours of detail about her life with her husband.
The detective asked very few direct
questions, and the overwhelming majority of the interview seemed unrelated to the investigation.
Late Thursday afternoon, former friend Shayna Citron told the jury Andrea Sneiderman had
"checked out of her marriage" prior to her husband's death.
Citron was friends with Sneiderman for nearly eight years, referring to her as a "best friend." That ended when Citron testified during the murder trial of Andrea's boss, Hemy Neuman, who is serving a life sentence. Neuman shot and killed Rusty Sneiderman outside the Dunwoody Prep preschool in 2010.
Citron testified Sneiderman confided in her about Neuman making romantic advances earlier that year.
During the Neuman trial, Citron testified that Andrea denied having an affair but she did not believe her. Citron's testimony was immediately followed by one of the more memorable moments of the Neuman trial, a long awkward hug and kiss between the former friends.
The display caused Judge Gregory Adams to ban Sneiderman from the courtroom for the remainder of the Neuman trial.
On the stand
Thursday, Citron said of Andrea, "When she was speaking about Rusty, her eyes were dark and cold. When she was speaking about her boss, her eyes were sparkly."
In police documents obtained by Channel 2 Action News, Citron disclosed a conversation she had with Andrea prior to her police interviews, in which the friends discussed the possibility of Neuman being a suspect.
Much of Thursday's testimony from the lead detective on the case centered around his belief that while Andrea did mention Neuman's name, she deliberately steered him away from Neuman as a suspect.