A murder charge unsealed Friday against Lyle “Ty” Hoffman revealed that authorities found his passport, folded clothes, prescription drugs and the ammunition magazine for a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun in a suitcase at a friend’s Minneapolis condo.
The magazine contained 13 live rounds that matched bullet fragments recovered from the body of Kelly Phillips, the man Hoffman allegedly killed.
The unsealing of the charge comes one month after Hoffman allegedly fired three fatal shots at his former romantic and business partner and fled, leading authorities on a weekslong chase that started at the shooting scene in Arden Hills and ended in Shakopee, where he was arrested about 10:20 a.m. Thursday.
Hoffman, 44, was charged last month with second-degree intentional murder in Ramsey County District Court in the Aug. 11 shooting of Phillips, 48, an attorney and Boston Scientific vice president.
The criminal complaint against Hoffman showed that Phillips was killed on the one-year anniversary of his engagement to another man, Nathon Bailey. The two were to marry Aug. 30.
Hoffman made his first court appearance in Ramsey County Friday, wearing a protective vest and no shirt beneath it. He was not handcuffed.
After a brief hearing, his bail was set at $2 million and he was granted a public defender, Connie Iversen. Hoffman waved, possibly at someone in the public gallery, before he was escorted from the courtroom.
Bailey, who attended the hearing, teared up and left without comment.
Authorities would not say Friday whether the engagement anniversary played a role in the murder, nor would they speculate on why or when the suitcase was packed.
Hoffman hasn’t spoken to police since his arrest, said Ramsey County Sheriff’s Inspector Rob Allen.
“We’ve not interviewed him,” Allen said. “Anything we do at this point will be through his attorney.”
Authorities said additional charges against Hoffman, including evasion and bank robbery, are possible. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said the case could be presented to a grand jury for consideration of first-degree murder charges if new evidence supports it.
“I hope that we can bring some measure of peace and closure for all of those who dearly loved the victim, Kelly Phillips,” Choi said.
A public threat
Authorities charged Hoffman with second-degree murder Aug. 15 but ordered the complaint sealed for fear its contents would compromise their investigation and cause Hoffman to hide or flee. Authorities considered him a threat to police and the public.
Hoffman and Phillips 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 came to a head in the past year when Hoffman was fired from the club and evicted from a nearby house owned by Phillips.
Hoffman also learned, his sister has said, that he had no legal stake in the business he helped launch and managed.
Hoffman allegedly took business records from Lush without permission after his employment was terminated.
According to the criminal complaint:
Hoffman and Phillips arrived at the Holiday gas station at 1920 Hwy. 96 in Arden Hills about 8:20 a.m. Aug. 11. They were in a BMW owned by Phillips.
Witnesses told police that the men argued. Then, Phillips exited and ran from the parked car.
Hoffman allegedly shot Phillips twice from a distance as Phillips fled. Hoffman then approached Phillips, who was on his knees, and allegedly fired a shot into the back of his head at near-point-blank range, the complaint said.
A witness has said that Phillips was begging for his life when the last shot was fired. The witness also said that the man who fired the shots drove over Phillips as he fled in the BMW.
Authorities soon found the car abandoned near the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. Hoffman grew up in the area.
Hoffman’s Ford SUV was found abandoned in downtown Minneapolis, where he occasionally stayed at a friend’s condo and where authorities found his packed suitcase. The SUV’s key was found near the BMW.
Sightings of Hoffman and a bank robbery allegedly committed by him in Blaine on Aug. 31 prompted multiple police searches for him. Authorities focused on areas around the Anoka County-Blaine Airport and Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake as the reward for his arrest quickly skyrocketed from $1,000 to $10,000 to $25,000 and finally to $40,000.
The search came to an end Thursday when a tipster called police about a suspicious man in the Southbridge Crossing Shopping Center in Shakopee. A thinner, bearded Hoffman was spotted viewing the Arby’s drive-through menu on foot. Hoffman, who was unarmed, was arrested without incident.
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for the alleged murder weapon, a Glock semiautomatic .45-caliber handgun, camouflage in color. It also is investigating whether Hoffman received help while on the lam. It was unclear where Hoffman had been staying while evading police.
“[Thursday], the manhunt was over, but the investigation continues,” said Sgt. John Eastham, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
Hoffman’s next court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3.
Staff Writer Nicole Norfleet
contributed to this report.