Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The wife of former Vikings player Joe Senser has been charged with one felony count of criminal vehicular homicide operation, after a fatal hit-and-run crash in August.
According to her attorney, Amy Senser, of Edina, was driving the Mercedes-Benz SUV involved in the crash that killed 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong. She is currently in custody and being held on $150,000 bail. She will have her first appearance in Hennepin County Court on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
If convicted, she could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to a $20,000 fine.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman discussed the charges at a 1:30 p.m. press conference at the Hennepin County Government Center.
Freeman said they believe they have evidence to prove that Amy Senser was driving, that she caused a death and then left the scene. Based on the facts they’ve collected, Freeman said they have adequate evidence to prosecute her.
“One of our challenges here, there are only two people that know what happened that night. One of them, tragically, is dead and the other is exerting constitutional rights not to talk,” Freeman said.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman Discusses Charges
Phanthavong’s family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Senser family. On Thursday, the attorney for Phanthavong’s family said they are relieved that criminal charges have been filed.
Attorney Jim Schwebel said the Sensers have failed to cooperate with the investigation. His team will continue to investigate until all of the facts of the case are known.
“We want a lot of specific facts,” he said. “We want a jury to feel the full impact of what happened that night.”
According to the criminal complaint, the attorney for 45-year-old Amy Senser contacted authorities at 10:30 p.m. the day after the crash.
Police said Phanthavong was hit and killed around 11 p.m. on Aug. 23 while he was filling his car with gas on the off-ramp of the Cedar-Riverside exit of westbound Interstate 94.
The criminal charges state that Phanthavong was found face down on the ramp, about 40 feet in front of his vehicle, with several injuries to the right side of his body. The complaint also states his shoes had come off and were on the ground between the vehicle and his body.
The attorney for the Senser family, Eric Nelson, led officers to their car and later revealed that Amy Senser was the driver. Investigators noted front-end damage on the passenger side, including on the fender, and what looked like blood on the hood. The criminal complaint states the vehicle is registered to Joe Senser.
“This is a tragedy. This is a tremendously tragic accident. She grieves for the family, that’s her concern at this point, his family. It may not seem that way because she’s exercising her fifth amendment right, but let that be a lesson to all Minnesotans and all U.S. citizens of how important these rights are,” Nelson said.
Multiple parts of the suspect vehicle were left at the scene, including a piece that was identified to have come from a Mercedes, the complaint states.
The vehicle was transported 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.
On Sept. 2, Amy Senser released a statement to the State Patrol, which read: “I, Amy Senser, was the driver of the vehicle in the accident in which Anousone Phanthavong lost his life.”
“Having a confession from the defendant isn’t a bad place to start. Obviously, we would need more evidence,” Freeman said.
Phanthavong’s cause of death was ruled accidental on Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. He was a chef at the True Thai Restaurant in Minneapolis.