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Estero killing trial: Witnesses drop bombshells co...
Estero killing trial: Witnesses drop bombshells co...: Joseph Rochford answering questions for lawyers before formal testimony in the trial of Shane Simpkins today. Video by Thomas Stewart/news-press.com
Joseph Rochford testifying in trial of Shane Simpkins today. / Thomas Stewart/news-press.com

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With both defendants blaming each other, six jurors in the murder trial of a 64-year-old Estero woman will be tasked today with weighing the conflicting testimonies of several convicted felons, including one who nonchalantly admitted he robs people for prescription pills.

Closing arguments are scheduled this morning, the trial’s fifth day, after which the jury will begin deliberations.

Shane Simpkins, 26, is accused of strangling Mary Ann Zarb at her home. Prosecutors say he learned Zarb would be coming into a large sum of money from the sale of her Vero Beach condo and that he cashed more than $25,000 in checks from her around the time of her death.

His co-defendant, Christopher Neuberger, 27, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to 10 years in prison and 10 years probation in exchange for his testimony against Simpkins.

Simpkins took the stand Friday and pinned the blame on Neuberger. He said he hired Neuberger to help remodel Zarb’s home and the two went there April 11, 2011.

He testified he left to go to the bank and, when he returned, he found Zarb’s body on the floor of the master bedroom and Neuberger pointing Zarb’s silver revolver at him, threatening to kill him if he called police.

Neuberger, he said, told him he had been going through Zarb’s belongings — just being nosy, not intending to steal anything — when Zarb caught him in the act.

“He just blanked out and hit her and she fell and she never got back up and that’s what he told me,” Simpkins said. Neuberger also said he was on “blues,” the street term for Roxicodone, a pain pill, Simpkins testified.

Simpkins said the two then drove 40 miles to a remote area in south Charlotte County and dumped Zarb’s body. Afterward, Neuberger took more than $6,000 of Simpkins’ money and told him not to call police until several days later, giving Neuberger time to flee the area, Simpkins said.

Neuberger, the state’s main witness, testified Wednesday he had no involvement in Zarb’s death. He said the two were working on Zarb’s home when Simpkins came to tell him Zarb was dead.

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Neuberger said he asked Simpkins what happened, but Simpkins didn’t say. He said Simpkins then paid him to help dump the body.

The defense also called three inmates of the Lee County Jail on Friday who testified they heard Neuberger make incriminating statements.

Joseph Rochford said Neuberger tried to sell him two weapons, including a silver revolver, at a “tattoo party” around the time of the death. “He said he offed the … and that’s where he got the guns from,” Rochford said.

Assistant State Attorney Marie Scalise, however, pointed out Rochford had four felony convictions and elicited a frank confession when asking why he had a prescription symbol tattooed under his left eye. “I rob people for prescription pills,” he said matter-of-factly.

Neuberger denied attending a tattoo party, or even knowing Rochford.

Trey Faison, meanwhile, said Neuberger told him in jail he was caught rummaging through an old woman’s belongings. And James Ingelido testified Neuberger bragged in jail how he threatened Simpkins.

“He said, ‘You should’ve seen him when I pulled the firearm,’” Ingelido said. “’I told him to help me with the body or I’d whack him too.’”

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