SHAFER, MINN. – Two days after a Boston Scientific executive was gunned down in a gas station parking lot, authorities appeared no closer to knowing what sparked the violence or finding the man they suspect of pulling the trigger.
But on Wednesday, the sister of Lyle "Ty" Hoffman, the man the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office calls a suspect in the case, said she fears that her brother may have taken his life.
"Possibly," Dawn Gominsky said. "I'm assuming if he did this, probably."
All this week, friends and associates were outspoken in their grief over the shocking death of Kelly Phillips, 48, an attorney and Boston Scientific vice president who was shot in the back and the head as he tried to run from the gunman after their car pulled into the gas station in Arden Hills on Monday morning.
Thursday morning, Phillips' fiancé, Nathon Bailey, made his first comments, telling the Star Tribune, "My heart has been ripped out and torn up in so many pieces. The love and bond between Kelly and I is something I never knew could exist. … I feel dead inside. I'm not sure I can move forward from here."
On Wednesday, Gominsky stepped forward to defend Hoffman, 44, Phillips' former lover and business partner.
Gominsky said her brother may have been pushed to the brink of violence after losing his job, his home and his standing over the past several months — all of it, she said, taken by Phillips, the man with whom he had shared a relationship for more than a dozen years.
"He probably just snapped," Gominsky said from her home in Shafer, about an hour northeast of Minneapolis. "Everything he thought he had was gone in an instant."
Friends and relatives on both sides acknowledge that the men were close for years, working on several projects — Phillips providing the capital and Hoffman contributing sweat equity.
First was the former telephone building on SE. 6th Street in Minneapolis that they converted into commercial space, with living quarters they shared on an upper floor. Next came Lush Food Bar, a gay nightspot started five years ago on Central Avenue NE. There was also a house across the street from Lush, where Hoffman lived after the relationship with Phillips ended.
Stories about the opening of Lush in the Star Tribune and Lavender, a magazine focused on the Twin Cities gay community, referred to Hoffman as a co-owner.
'He'll do right by me'
Even after the two men broke up, Hoffman believed everything would be made right, Gominsky said. Phillips told Hoffman after their split that Hoffman would get the restaurant and Phillips the house, she added.
"My brother kept saying: 'He'll do right by me, he'll do right by me,' " Gominsky said.
Instead, she said, Phillips told Hoffman months ago that he had no legal stake in the businesses. He was fired from Lush and evicted from the house across the street.
"All of a sudden, you find out the rug is pulled out from underneath you," Gominsky said of her brother.
The reasons for the split differ, depending on the source.
Phillips' ex-wife, who stayed close to him in the 20-plus years since their divorce, said Tuesday that Hoffman had become violent with Phillips and was acting erratically regarding the men's stormy business dealings.
Gominsky said Wednesday that that was not true.
"Never," she said. "His ex-wife is making my brother out to be a monster. And he wasn't."
What he was, she said, was a good man from a blended family with 10 children and not much money. Over the years, "Tiger," as she called him, became skilled with his hands and started a successful business — Global Grounds Cafe — in Spring Lake Park.
And for nearly 15 years, she said, Hoffman and Phillips were happy.
On Wednesday, Gominsky offered condolences to Phillips' family.
"My heart and soul is with them," she said. "Kelly is like a brother to me."
Since the eviction, Hoffman has been "staying from place to place," at times going to a sister's cabin in Canada, about a 12-hour drive from the Twin Cities.
Gominsky said her sister is there now but doesn't believe Hoffman is there.
For now, she waits for word on his whereabouts — expecting the worst.
Her brother, Dan, shot and killed himself in February 2012. Her son, Austin, hanged himself in February 2013. She said she hopes Ty isn't next.
Gominsky said she drove past the area near the Anoka County-Blaine Airport where authorities were searching for Hoffman Tuesday, and called out his name. She received no reply.
"If he is out there, I am pleading with him to come forward," she said. "I just want to let him know that we love him and support him — through anything."