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naples daily news Christopher neuberger was hardly the perfect star witness for
prosecutors, but the 27yearold felon provided the one and only firsthand account
wednesday of the homicide for which shane simpkins stands trial in lee county
this week. Taking the stand as required under a plea agreement, neuberger told
jurors that simpkins, 26, a cape coral laborer, killed Mary ann zarb in april
2011 while they remodeled the grandmother's estero home.Prosecutors have said
simpkins strangled zarb, then cashed four of her checks totaling $25, 600.
Neuberger testified he was in another room of zarb's condominium, installing an
attic access point one monday morning, lammonia Monster Beats when simpkins came
to him. "I was in the back bedroom working and he came in and told me she was
dead,"Said neuberger, of fort myers. During 90 minutes of testimony on the
trial's second day, neuberger described how he and simpkins loaded zarb's body
into the back of her white ford edge, drove to the leecharlotte county line and
dumped her body in palmetto bushes.Zarb's body wasn't found for another two
weeks, when both neuberger and simpkins separately led detectives to her
location. Neuberger has pleaded guilty to seconddegree murder in the case and
will receive a 10year prison sentence, followed by 10 years of probation, for
his role.He said he was paid $6, 000 by simpkins to help dispose of the body but
denied any violence toward zarb. Neuberger's account, consistent throughout his
testimony, proves critical as no witnesses saw the killing and physical evidence
is somewhat sparse. Neuberger's time on the stand, however, was less than
stellar.He slouched forward and swiveled in his chair.Specific details were
sparse, often elicited only when a lawyer prodded.His criminal history was
disclosed six or seven felony convictions, he said and jurors were told his
testimony was part of a plea deal. Neuberger also said he never asked simpkins
about the circumstances of zarb's death, testifying he accepted simpkins'
response of"Don't worry about it. "That prompted simpkins' exasperated lawyer,
steven smith, to ask,"You let it go at that? " Simpkins has pinned the homicide
on neuberger, saying he killed her after getting caught trying to steal jewelry.
Deputy chief medical examiner robert pfalzgraf, who performed the autopsy on
zarb, testified wednesday he found fractures to cartilage near zarb's neck
consistent with strangulation. "Based on everything i know about this case, they
were likely due to trauma, and obviously strangulation is one reason to
get"Those fractures, pfalzgraf said. Zarb also had seven broken ribs on the left
side of her body, which were"Highly unlikely to be cprinduced,"Pfalzgraf said.He
couldn't say whether the fractures were suffered before or after her death.
Prosecutors called seven other witnesses wednesday, including simpkins'
exgirlfriend of five years, tiffany sipp.She testified she didn't see simpkins
until the late afternoon on the day of the killing, but said she handcounted
$20, 000 in cash he had in a briefcase later that day. Prosecutors are expected
to rest their case thursday morning, with simpkins' defense possibly finishing
by the end of the day.Simpkins is also charged with kidnapping, unarmed burglary
and larceny between $20, 000 and Monster Beats
$100, 000.The murder and kidnapping charges carry a possible life sentence.