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Victim's lawyer says 'about time' for Senser family to step forward; wife was driving SUV in fatal hit-run, their lawyer says

The wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser was driving the Mercedes-Benz SUV involved in a hit-and-run that killed a Minneapolis Thai restaurant chef, the Senser family lawyer said Friday.

Amy Senser
Photo courtesy Star Tribune

The wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser was driving the Mercedes-Benz SUV involved in a hit-and-run that killed a Minneapolis Thai restaurant chef, the Senser family lawyer said Friday.

Attorney Eric Nelson said Amy Senser, 45, was at the wheel the night of Aug. 23 when Anousone Phanthavong, 38, of Roseville was killed while getting gas for his car on the ramp from Interstate 94 at Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis.

Nelson said the family sent a written statement to that effect to the Minnesota State Patrol but had not met with the investigators or offered any additional information relating to the incident.

State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske confirmed that a one-sentence statement identifying Amy Senser as the driver was faxed to the patrol Friday afternoon.

However, Roeske said the family was refusing to answer additional questions and there was not enough evidence to make an arrest yet.


"There are still a number of questions that need to be answered," he said.

The State Patrol and Nelson said Thursday that the Mercedes had been turned over the day after the accident. It was in the family's garage in Edina with apparent blood on the front, according to a search warrant filed in Hennepin County District Court.

The SUV, which was towed to the Hennepin County crime lab, is registered to Joe Senser.

State law requires that drivers involved in accidents remain at the scene. But the law does not require a person to voluntarily

provide information in an investigation, said Bradford Colbert, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.

"You do not have an obligation to cooperate with police," he said. "You have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself."

On the other hand, Colbert said, impeding an investigation or lying to police is against the law.

Jim Schwebel, the attorney for the victim's family, said they would file a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday.


"It's about time," Schwebel said of the revelation by the Senser family. "They certainly couldn't keep the lid on this forever. It was disturbing that Mr. Senser and his family would use legal maneuvers to try to avoid taking responsibility for this man's death."

Nelson said Friday "it would not have been appropriate" for the family to have revealed earlier that Amy Senser was the driver.

"Obviously, there are possible criminal charges, possible civil lawsuits, a media angle," Nelson said, "but more importantly, there are family and friends and business considerations that have to be sorted out....You have to make sure every I is dotted and T is crossed."

Nelson said the Senser family has "tremendous integrity. The State Patrol, but for the Sensers turning in this vehicle, would not have necessarily (found it)....The fact that they turned in that vehicle is evidence of that integrity."

Nelson said the family could have abandoned the SUV in a lake or gotten rid of it in some other fashion.

A search of Minnesota court records showed no prior arrests or convictions, including traffic violations, for Amy Senser.

According to the search warrant, investigators had narrowed the identity of the vehicle involved in the crash to a 2009 or newer Mercedes-Benz ML, Model 350, 550 or 450, and also had narrowed the possible range of its vehicle identification number. The Sensers' SUV was a 2009 Mercedes ML350.

Asked whether anyone else was in the SUV at the time of the accident, Roeske said there was not yet enough evidence to conclude that.


"We're confident there are people with information that know exactly what happened," he said.

Senser played tight end for the Vikings from 1980-84 and was color commentator for the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network from 1993-94 and 2001-06. He is part owner of Joe Senser's Restaurant & Sports Theater, which has four locations in the Twin Cities.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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