Dateline   |  March 16, 2012

Over the Edge, Part 1

A brutal slaying in an affluent suburb baffles law enforcement and puts residents on edge. Dateline NBC's Dennis Murphy reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> "dateline," everyone. i'm lester holt . ing the next steve jobs , a rising young entrepreneur who wanted to change the world , but his world came to a heartbreaking end one morning with four gunshots. at first no one knew what to make of this case. just yesterday a jury made it clear -- this was a crime of passion , a fatal triangle involving a husband, a wife and a boss. here's dennis murphy .

>> reporter: broad daylight, morning in a busy parking lot . then pop, pop, pop, pop.

>> several shots were fired.

>> reporter: a man gunned down at close range outside a nursery school in a wealthy atlanta suburb. a silver minivan screeched from the lot, startled witnesses say the victim slumped on the ground.

>> right now his condition is unknown.

>> reporter: parents and teachers recognized the man who had been shot as a dad who had just dropped off his 2-year-old son. a preschool, of all place, had become a crime scene .

>> we are told all the children are perfectly safe.

>> reporter: the shooting victim being rushed to the hospital turned out to be 36-year-old rusty sneiderman. a married father of two.

>> i just hung my head and cried. ty's older brother steve was on a plane to hawaii when he got the shocking news. rusty was dead.

>> you know you're walking around on the plane, pacing around the aisles. and i mean, i looked at -- i e room and i looked at the door and thought about jumping.

>> reporter: he was desperate to get home to his family, desperate to find out what had happened to his little brother .

>> big brother was murdered. no one should have to face that.

>> reporter: he appeared at a police press conference after the shooting to talk about the family's incomparable loss.

>> our whole family has lost it brightest light, and we don't know why.

>> reporter: that was the question, why rusty ? his friend laura hester. did any of it make sense? were you able to come up with a theory what had happened?

>> no, this was a man that just was so beloved by so many people.

>> reporter: jeffrey moss lived across the hall from rusty at college.

>> always had a giant smile on his face, no matter the situation. always willing to help. used to end every conversation with, how can i help you? what can i do for you?

>> reporter: in the tight-knit jewish community where rusty lived and was raising his family a man like him is called a mensch, yiddish for a stand-up guy. now that very supportive community gathered around his wife of ten years, andrea. she seemed to be a good fit for him?

>> absolutely. they'd been together since college. he always spoke about her with and respect.

>> reporter: the couple had moved to dunwoody, an affluent suburb of atlanta , after rusty , a harvard mba grad, accepted a job with a software company.

>> they had a great house in atlanta . they had a summer house out at the lake. they had a boat, they had two great kids. they were living the dream .

>> reporter: a dream that was violently shattered that morning in the parking lot . the virtual execution of a young husband and father was in no one's frame of reference. the irrationality of the violence making it all the more terrifying. local attorney esther panach.

>> it put fear into the whole community.

>> reporter: the fleeting thought, was it a hate crime ? was the gunman targeting jews? the other line of speculation had to do with rusty 's work. he'd once handled money, major amounts of money for some high net worth individuals . had an investment portfolio gone horribly wrong? here's a guy dealing with serious amounts of money.

>> the initial thought was it was a professional hit by somebody who had lost a lot of money.

>> reporter: and if so, was it someone the dunwoody sickcircle knew well, maybe even a mourner sharing his condolences with the widow. an old college roommate wondered just that.

>> i remembered looking around and thinking to myself, the killer could be there.

>> reporter: you had that thought?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: what made rusty such a successful businessman, his vast network of friends and associates he was happy to put together in deals made it all the more difficult for homicide detectives to single out that one person who could have such rage about rusty sneiderman. he knew a lot of people.

>> he was an excellent networker. he was constantly expanding his business and personal goals.

>> reporter: but detectives caught a break. some of the witnesses were able to give the cops a description of the killer and his vehicle.

>> it is a possible white male with a beard. he's about 5'10", 5'11" in his 30s.

>> reporter: a sketch artist was able to render this portrait, a face with a dark beard, no mustache and most arresting of all, two piercing eyes. the witnesses remembered those vividly.

>> come forward and face justice. don't be a coward.

>> reporter: who was the man in the sketch?

>>> when we come back, the hunt begins with one giant clue. the getaway car caught on tape. are police close to catching the killer, too?