MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The family of a man killed in a hit-and-run crash last week is planning to file a civil lawsuit against the family of the vehicle’s owner.

Thirty-eight-year-old Anousone Phanthavong was killed August 23 while he was filling his car with gas on the off-ramp of the Cedar-Riverside exit of westbound Interstate 94.

The State Patrol said the Mercedes-Benz SUV that ran into Phanthavong belongs to former Minnesota Vikings tight end and local businessman Joe Senser.

The Senser family is expected to release a statement later Friday on the crash, but Phanthavong’s family members say they are outraged. They believe the Senser family is trying to hide the identity of who was behind the wheel during the crash.

The State Patrol said that the Sensers have thus far refused to answer any questions, and that they are looking at other avenues to try and determine who was driving.

Phanthavong’s family said they intend to file a civil lawsuit as early as next week.

Within 24 hours of the crash, an attorney for the Senser family led officers to the gold 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML350. Investigators noted front-end damage on the passenger side, including on the fender, and what looked like blood on the hood.

The vehicle was taken to the Hennepin County Crime Lab and a search turned up a bobby pin, a set of earrings, a bottle as well as a Mike’s bottle cap inside the vehicle.

The Sensers’ attorney confirmed the vehicle is owned by Senser, but did not say who may have been driving.

“The United State Constitution, the Minnesota Constitution provide every person with the right against self-incrimination, and the Sensers’ decision not to communicate who was driving is based on our advice at this point,” Nelson said.

Check Whitney, owner of True Thai Restaurant in Minneapolis, where Phanthavong worked as head chef, said he doesn’t understand why the Senser family is not more forthcoming.

“If it was an accident, it was an accident,” said Whitney. “Let’s get the information out and find out what happened. Don’t make the family go through hell to find out what happened. Whatever it is, it happened, so let’s just get to the truth.”

Whitney said he has interacted with Joe Senser in the past and has encountered him at various charity events. He said he always found him to be a respectable man, and he hopes he continues to do the right thing with regard to this incident.

Comments (22)
  1. Monica says:

    Bingo!!! I would too, they wanna keep quiet and not say anything, I cant help but think had this been any other family that they wouldnt be just be able to be at home clickin their hills deciding who to say it was driving the car.. SOMEONE would be in jail, and most likely it would be the owner of the vehicle because they have no one else!

  2. TL says:

    My, my…even through their attorney this isnt being handled very well by the Senser fam-dam-ily.

    Fess up already….just making it worse every day that goes by without an admission.

    Wonder how many, if not all of ’em, of the “Joe Sensers” restaurants will be sold off to pay the upcoming “bills.”

    Or for his business partner sake…hope he has enough of his own money to keep ’em running or buy Joe out….so that he can pay his upcoming “bills.”

    1. Schae says:

      The restaurants won’t be touched at all because one, he’s NOT the full owner of them and they are under a “Limited Liability Corporation.” Two, it will be Senser’s PERSONAL insurance paying for this.

      1. TL says:

        well there is that, I guess.

        Ill wait to see however when the dust settle if the restaurants are not affected by this in some way. If they hire a good attorney, there will be loop holes a-plenty to be found and go through.

        happens all the time…………

  3. U-Bet says:

    Have depositions been taken under oath from all of the suspects? Have all of the alibi’s been checked out? Has any of the cell phone records been checked (someone may have called someone when they hit something) Has any gps equipment etc been checked in the vehicle to verify where else the vehicle may have been that night, and possibly leading to other potential witnesses? Seems like a lot of the story is missing.

    1. TL says:

      The bulk of the story is a SUV registered in Sensers name parked in Sensers garge with the vic’s dna – tissue and otherwise – smothered on the SUV registered to Senser along with front end damage consistent with hitting something and the remnants of said damage that was left at the scene which was traced back to the SUV that is registered in Senser’s name in Senser’s garage.

      Oh, and the traffic cam that was working in the vicinity of the crash that will prolly further implicate the SUV once they utilize that nifty zoom into the vehicle plate technology as well as the front driver side window area on the SUV that is registered to the Senser family that was parked in Senser’s garage.

      But yeah, questions abound here………………thats for sure.

    2. Realist says:

      depositions? now? Do you have any idea what you are talking about?

  4. Margaret Macneale says:

    Outrageous – positively outrageous! There is only one correct course of action, and that is for the driver to walk in to the nearest police station and confess. No one is suggesting that this was deliberate. It was an accident. But that any family, much less one so well known, would follow their attorney’s apparent advice to stay silent is horrifying. They should fire the attorney and get moving to confess. I think the next step is to boycott all Senser’s restaurants and keep the public pressure on them to do the right thing.

  5. busted says:

    Fleeing the scene is a charge alone. They only fled because they were drinking. Had it been an accident, they would have stopped!

  6. Tragic - and not talking about the Senser's. That is pathetic says:

    I hope the family ends up owning everything the Sensers own – today and until the day they too die.
    If they own up to this this let the courts play out. If they don’t – make God have mercy on their pathetic souls

  7. pants on fire says:

    The withholding of information and failure to tell the truth and accept responsibility is disgusting. I hope the victim’s family wins a HUGE amount over this.

  8. TURBO says:

    When Jim Schwebel gets done with the Sensoers, they may all be wearing pickle barrels. Consider the possibility that the SUV may also be a Co.. car. Not a good situation for the Senser family to be in.

  9. Hope Senser's have UMBRELLA Coverage! says:

    Very little of what the Senser’s own, like the restaurants, will get touched because business men/women buy UMBRELLA POLICIES, from their insurance companies for situations like this. My teacher friend had an UMBRELLA on herself, to protect her husbands business, just in case someone came after her, they couldn’t touch her husband’s business.
    This is a TERRIBLE situation. 😦
    Both families have been devastated…and there’s no going back.
    I am praying for both families.

    1. red says:

      Who cares about the Senser’s. The driver should have come forward from the beginning and stopped all the public wondering and nonsense. no matter if it was his wife or one of his teenage daughters drinking and driving

  10. Michelle says:

    Are you even a human? If you think you are, then do the right thing!

  11. Jean says:

    You see if you are very wealthy and a conservative, you are above the law. Daddy please don’t tell them I did this, I am too pretty.

    1. blue man says:

      I sincerely doubt he’s a republican. Come on… living in the state of Minnesota blue? Jean get your head out of your a$$.

  12. Schae says:

    Gee, how come two OTHER local news outlets are saying that Joe Senser’s wife WAS the driver? The insurance that will be paying for this is Joe Senser’s automobile insurance. The restaurants that bear his name are protected under a “Limited Liability Corporation” and Joe is NOT the full owner of those restaurants.

    1. TL says:

      ya, we’ll see……………..

  13. Justice says:

    I hope his establishement is empty from now until forever.

    1. Big10 says:

      Cornhusker football is a staple at Senser’s, tomorrow is the first game of the season. Usually it’s packed, but I wonder if their only customers will be out of towners and friends.

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