Authorities are searching cellphone records in hopes of reconstructing the movements of Kelly Phillips in the days before he was shot and killed at an Arden Hills gas station last month, according to search warrant affidavits.
Within hours of the slaying, authorities established Lyle “Ty” Hoffman, Phillips’ former romantic and business partner, as the prime suspect in the case. Hoffman, 44, evaded police for a month before he was spotted and arrested in Shakopee on Sept. 11. Authorities have said he has declined to be interviewed.
Two search warrant affidavits signed Aug. 14 and made available Tuesday show that authorities hope to find answers about the men’s whereabouts in AT&T records for calls, text messages and locations for a cellphone number, and records for the onboard cellular telephone feature of Phillips’ BMW.
According to one count of second-degree intentional murder filed against Hoffman in Ramsey County District Court: Hoffman and Phillips arrived at a Holiday gas station in the BMW the morning Hoffman allegedly fired three shots at Phillips. The shooter then fled in the car, which was later found abandoned near the Anoka County-Blaine Airport.
“Phillips was struck by the car as the suspect fled,” one of the search warrants said. “Your affiant viewed surveillance footage that captured the latter portion of the incident.”
Authorities are seeking data from Aug. 4-12 to help reconstruct Phillips’ and Hoffman’s movements.
“The whereabouts of the BMW passenger car in the hours following Phillips’ death and before its discovery are unknown, along with the whereabouts of the suspect, who fled in the vehicle after shooting Phillips,” according to the search warrant. “Likewise, the specifics of Phillips’ travels and whereabouts in the hours preceding his death are unknown to law enforcement.”
Ramsey County Sheriff’s Inspector Rob Allen said that the BMW’s onboard telephone feature was used to help locate the abandoned car.
Authorities continue to investigate Hoffman’s whereabouts in the month he evaded police, the location of the alleged murder weapon and are trying to determine whether Hoffman received help from anyone.
“We’ve received some helpful information,” said Allen, who declined to elaborate.
Meanwhile, the tipster who led police to Hoffman last week will receive the $40,000 reward that had been offered in the case.
The person who noticed Hoffman lingering around several retail outlets has chosen to remain anonymous, said Dave Michela, a longtime friend of Phillips who assisted in collecting the reward money. Authorities have only revealed that the person is a woman.
“This was a textbook example of a community coming together in pursuit of justice,” said former Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff, president of the Council on Crime and Justice and a friend of Phillips.
In a statement Tuesday, Kelly’s friends and family said: “Words cannot express the thanks we extend to the individual who led law enforcement to the suspect. We thank all who stayed alert and called in tips, and we thank the individuals and businesses who donated so generously to the reward fund.”
Hoffman and Phillips, 48, were in a personal relationship for about 15 years and had opened Lush nightclub in northeast Minneapolis together. Their business relationship continued after their romantic relationship ended, but tensions heightened in the past year when Hoffman was fired from the club and evicted from a house owned by Phillips.
Phillips, an attorney and Boston Scientific vice president, was scheduled to marry Nathon Bailey on Aug. 30.
Hoffman is in custody in lieu of $2 million bail. His next court hearing is set for Oct. 3.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.