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Lawyer: Ex-Viking Senser's wife driver of SUV in fatal hit-and-run

MINNEAPOLIS - Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser, was identified Friday as the driver in a hit-and-run that killed a Roseville man last week. But the circumstances behind the crash remained a mystery.

MINNEAPOLIS - Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings player Joe Senser, was identified Friday as the driver in a hit-and-run that killed a Roseville man last week. But the circumstances behind the crash remained a mystery.

Eric Nelson, the Senser family's attorney, continued to refuse to discuss the accident, saying he didn't want to jeopardize the State Patrol's investigation. But he said the family isn't trying to conceal information about the incident and that details will become public through possible criminal charges or a civil suit.

That civil suit, for wrongful death, is expected to be filed Tuesday by the family of Anousone Phanthavong, a Rose­ville chef who was struck and killed by Senser's SUV while filling his car's empty gas tank on an interstate exit ramp in Minneapolis the night of Aug. 23.

Amy Senser, 45, of Edina, ­hasn't been arrested, but if she is charged with a crime, she will voluntarily turn herself in to authorities, Nelson said. Her criminal history shows one minor traffic ticket.

The Senser family informed the State Patrol the day after the accident that a Mercedes-Benz SUV belonging to Joe Senser had been involved but until Friday had refused to publicly identify Amy Senser as the driver.


Nelson said that was because of many complex and overlapping investigation issues and the need to first clarify various legal matters.

Before Senser's name was released Friday afternoon, attorney Jim Schwebel, representing the victim's family, implored the Sensers "to rise to the occasion and do the right thing."

The civil suit will give him subpoena power to talk to anyone associated with the case. They ­wouldn't be required to answer questions, but such denials are admissible as evidence and those involved "would pay a price later on."

The Senser family "is pretending to feel a lot of distress and remorse, but they still won't give an account of the accident," Schwebel said. "The [Phanthavong] family isn't placated by what they've done to this point."

Nelson said that Phanthavong's loss has weighed heavily on Amy Senser and her entire family and that they extended their deepest sympathies to all those affected.

"Ms. Senser is not faring very well," he said. "She is a wreck."

Joe Senser, 55, a former tight end with the Vikings, is on leave from his WCCO Radio job providing color commentary for University of St. Thomas football games. The Sensers have four daughters, two in their 20s who live in Minneapolis and two in their early teens.

Phanthavong, 38, was killed as he was putting gas in his car after it ran out of fuel on the ramp leading from westbound Interstate 94 to Riverside Avenue about 11 p.m.


He was head cook at True Thai, a restaurant on nearby Franklin Avenue.

He was hit directly by Senser's vehicle and propelled in the air, Schwebel said. There was blood on parts of the vehicle left at the scene, according to a search warrant.

Investigators received a call at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 from Nelson indicating he was calling on behalf of the registered owner of the suspected vehicle and the owner's family. The State Patrol had released the vehicle make through the media.

At their Edina home, the Sensers gave investigators the keys to their 2009 Mercedes ML350, and it was towed to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office crime lab.

The family gave investigators permission to search the vehicle, but authorities waited until they obtained a search warrant, Nelson said.

On Tuesday, Joe Senser and an unidentified family member met with State Patrol investigators.

They provided some information but not who was driving during the accident.

Lt. Eric Roeske said that identifying Amy Senser as the driver was a small step in the right direction but that unanswered questions remained.


Despite the family's identifying the driver, investigators will still need to prove it as fact.

"This case is being treated the same as any other case," Roeske said. "It's our job to find out who killed this man. There is no courtesy being extended to anybody, nor will there be."

Because Amy Senser fled the scene, it will be extremely difficult for authorities to prove whether she was intoxicated at the time of the accident, Schwebel said.

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