Lee Sheriff’s Office: Cape man charged in missing woman’s death led investigators to body
A Cape Coral man arrested in the slaying of Mary Ann Zarb of Estero led investigators to the woman’s body in heavily wooded area of North Fort Myers near the Lee/Charlotte County line, records released Wednesday show.
Christopher Allen Neuberger, 25, of 2030 N.E. 34th Terrace, was charged with murder while engaged in another felony offense, burglary while armed and larceny between $20,000 and $100,000.
Shane Steven Simpkins, 24, of the same address, faces the same charges.
They are being held without bond in Lee County Jail.
“This is a horrific crime that gripped this community for twelve days,” Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said at a Tuesday night press conference announcing the arrests. He called the investigation exhaustive and said it continues.
Zarb, 64, who lived in the 20000 block of Country Club Drive in The Villages of Country Creek, last spoke to her adult children on April 10. Five days later, they called deputies who went to her house to check on her. She was not there. One son told deputies he knew she’d hired a man to do some work. That man he identified as “Shane Simpson,” records show.
A deputy went by later in the day and found four people, including Simpkins who, the deputy reported, was seen snorting suspected cocaine from a table in Zarb’s house. Her car, a white Ford Escape, was in the driveway, but she was not there, earlier reports show. It was impounded, but investigators are not releasing what, if any evidence was found inside.
Simpkins and the three other people were charged in connection with the deputy finding them in the home: Simpkins and Tiffany Marie Sipp, 17, on drug charges; Stephen Patrick Smutney, 19, for resisting arrest; and Nicole Rae Durden, 18, of the 7500 block of Suncoast Drive in North Fort Myers, on paraphernalia charges. Sipp and Smutney list the same address as Simpkins and Neuberger.
According to the report released Wednesday, Zarb was last seen alive at 9 a.m. April 11 at her bank. Simpkins admitted to being at Zarb’s house that day, but said he was hired to remodel her home and had prepaid him in excess of $24,000 for the work. He also said Neuberger was with him.
Neuberger was acquitted on a murder charge connected to the 2005 Thanksgiving Day slaying of Jose Gomez in North Fort Myers. He was acquitted in 2009.Neuberger also goes by the names of Robert Allen Neuberger and Christopher Babe Ruth. The state prison data base does not show he was ever sentenced to prison or state probation, however he also was charged Tuesday with being a convicted felon from another state in possession of a weapon.
He and Simpkins both have lengthy arrest records.
Neuberger has been charged previously in Lee County, in addition to the murder charge of which he was acquitted, with possessing a weapon by a convicted felon and drug charges. He also has an arrest record in Hillsborough County.
Simpkins has spent time in prison twice for willfully giving a false statement, attempted robbery, and multiple counts of grand theft and burglary. He was released from prison on Aug. 22.
Neuberger reportedly admitted to investigators he was at Zarb’s house early the day she was last seen alive and he was paid just more than $400 for “legitimate work” he did at her home. But he told investigators she had left at some point during the day with Simpkins, reports show. When Simpkins returned, he said she left with a friend.
After Zarb was killed, Neuberger and Simpkins took her car to the remote area off Huffmaster Road, which is a densely wooded, extremely remote area of southern Charlotte County where Zarb’s body was disposed, according to police records.
Zarb’s remains were identified by the state medical examiner using dental records the same day she was found.
Witnesses reported to investigators they saw Simpkins on that Monday night, April 11, in North Fort Myers driving Zarb’s car, in possession of about $20,000 in cash and with two firearms he was trying to sell. The report was not clear whether the guns were stolen from Zarb’s house.
Suntrust Bank, Zarb’s bank, confirmed that on April 11 five checks totaling $25,600 were written on her account to Simpkins and he cashed them that same day.
When Simpkins was originally detained on April 15, he had Zarb’s credit card in his wallet. Through investigations, deputies learned “Simpkins used her credit card at various businesses during the week following her murder,” according to the reports.
Investigators have not released how Zarb was killed.
Her daughter, Julie Temperly, of Iowa, flanked by her brothers and sisters-in-law, made tearful plea last week for their mother’s safe return, offering a $5,000 reward.
The patriarch of the family, George “Ed” Zarb, an Air Force veteran who retired from Ford Motor Company, and Mary Ann Zarb had moved to Florida, living for a time in Palm Beach Gardens and Vero Beach before Ed Zarb died Feb. 28, 2010, after a 6-year battle with lung cancer. Mary Ann Zarb was his caregiver and stayed by his side while he battled the disease.
About four months ago, Zarb decided to move to Estero, was making friends and was happy, her family said.
It was highly uncharacteristic when she vanished April 11.
The mother of five and grandmother to eight was a warm, caring person, they said.
“She loved all four of her sons and me, her daughter,” Temperly said during last week’s press conference. But she lived for her eight grandchildren. “Please help us find our mom. Our family just wants our mom back.”
Temperly described getting off the plane in Fort Myers, knowing her mother wouldn’t be there to meet her and promised to stay until her mom was found.
During last week’s meeting, Temperly said while choking back tears: “It’s like a nightmare we never woke up from.” Her brother, Ed Zarb, put an arm on her back to comfort her, but was visibly shaken himself.
Temperly also spoke to the media Tuesday night when the announcement was made her mother had been found and two people were charged with killing her.
“I want to thank everyone who called the Crime Stopper tip line,” she said. “At least we can all have closure and won’t have to wonder.”