Affidavit: Driver of Senser SUV had light hair

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 11:58 AM

Description of driver seen later near scene more closely resembles daughter.

A witness' description of a driver police believe was returning to the scene of a fatal hit-and-run last summer more closely resembles a daughter of suspect Amy Senser than Senser herself, investigators noted in a series of newly unsealed search warrants.

The batch of warrants dated Sept. 1 and unsealed Tuesday seek evidence including cellphone records and bank and credit card records from the Senser family in the wake of the Aug. 23 crash that killed Anousone Phanthavong, 38, who was filling his car with gas on an Interstate 94 exit ramp at Riverside Avenue. Amy Senser, who said she was the driver of the Mercedes sport-utility vehicle that killed Phanthavong, is scheduled to stand trial April 23 for two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide.

According to the affidavits, a witness reported seeing a Mercedes SUV with front-end damage return to the area about 45 minutes after the hit-and-run. The affidavit noted that hit-and-run suspects often return to the scene "to determine the seriousness of the crash they were involved in." The witness described the driver as a woman "approximately 30 years old with light colored hair."

The affidavit went on to note that Senser, who is 45, has brown hair, and that her daughter, who was 26 at the time of the crash, had light-colored hair and an address on her expired driver's license "in close proximity to the scene."

Amended charges filed by the Hennepin County attorney's office last month say an account by the same witness described the driver as having "long, sandy-blond hair." Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has repeatedly said prosecutors are confident Amy Senser was driving the SUV at the time of the accident. Senser is the wife of former Minnesota Vikings star Joe Senser.

The affidavit also says a witness reported that Senser may have had dinner with her brother that night, also near the crash scene.

Both Senser's defense attorney and prosecutors gave little merit to the discrepancies noted in the unsealed warrants.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson declined to comment on specific information in the affidavits, but said that any information vital to his case would have been presented in a motion filed last week to dismiss the charges. Nelson contends that Senser, who got lost on her way to pick up her younger daughters from a concert at the Xcel Energy Center, did not know that she had hit Phanthavong.

"In any search warrant or criminal investigation, there may be tips or pieces of information reported to police that they have an obligation to investigate. Sometimes they turn out to be true, sometimes they turn out to be completely irrelevant and lead to nothing," Nelson said. "If I had felt that at this point there was any contest to who was driving, that would have been contained within the motion."

Hennepin County attorney's office spokesman Chuck Laszewski also declined to address specific claims in the affidavit.

"As we've been saying all along, we are confident we can prove the facts of the charges," he said.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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