Given the chance Tuesday to explain why he fatally shot his former life partner last summer, Lyle “Ty” Hoffman had nothing to say.
Ramsey Coun-ty District Judge George Stephenson asked him if there was something he wanted to tell the court before receiving his sentence. Hoffman shook his head and said, “No, your honor.”
With that, Stephenson handed down a sentence of 25½ years in prison, then swiftly admonished Hoffman for not having the “decency” before sentencing to take responsibility for the Aug. 11 murder of Kelly Phillips in a gas station parking lot.
“Instead, you tried to throw some blame on the victim,” Stephenson said, referring to statements Hoffman made in a pre-sentence investigation. “It’s unconscionable.”
As Hoffman, who turned 45 Tuesday, was taken away, Stephenson looked out over the courtroom at Phillips’ relatives and friends.
“He’s not worth your time,” the judge said. “Good luck to you. You have my condolences.”
The sentencing came two months after Hoffman pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional murder for shooting Phillips, 48, three times — including once in the head at point blank range — at an Arden Hills gas station. His prison term had been agreed upon under the terms of the “straight plea.”
Hoffman and Phillips were partners for 15 years and together opened the northeast Minneapolis business Lush Bar. They broke up more than five years ago, but their business relationship continued until 2014 when Phillips fired Hoffman and evicted him from a house across the street from the business.
Hoffman had no legal stake in the home or business.
At his plea hearing, Hoffman admitted that he shot Phillips after a “heated argument” about the ownership of Lush Bar. Phillips, an attorney for Boston Scientific, and Hoffman had driven to the gas station in Phillips’ car.
Phillips jumped out of the vehicle and ran. That’s when Hoffman fired, with the last shot fired at the back of Phillips’ head as he pleaded for his life.
Hoffman fled and was arrested Sept. 11 after leading police on an extended hunt across the metro area.
In their victim impact statements read in court, Phillips’ mother, Judy Phillips, his aunt, and his fiancé, Nathon Bailey, said that Hoffman used and abused Phillips.
Bailey said that he met Phillips four years ago, and that early in the relationship, Phillips sought counseling for the abuse he’d suffered from Hoffman. Bailey said that Hoffman sent Phillips a threatening text message in March 2014 that said, “Do not underestimate my resolve.”
Bailey also told the judge that he and Phillips’ mother urged him to never meet with Hoffman alone. But on the anniversary of Phillips’ engagement to Bailey, Hoffman walked to Phillips’ condo, and the two ended up at the gas station.
“He did this intentionally on the anniversary of our engagement,” Bailey said of Hoffman.
Bailey and Phillips were to wed Aug. 30. Instead, Bailey said, he read his marriage vows beside Phillips’ casket, then slid a wedding band onto Phillips’ finger.
“He killed me,” Bailey said of Hoffman.
Phillips’ father, Jim Phillips, and brother also spoke in court.
“His death will not ruin our family,” Jim Phillips said. “It will make us stronger.”
He said that a few weeks before the shooting, Kelly Phillips drove to Iowa to help his parents move even though they had enough help. That night, he returned to Minneapolis for a volunteer event.
“I wish I could be locked up in a room alone for five minutes with Ty. …” Jim Phillips said, adding that he would leave with “restitution” for the murder.
After the sentencing, Hoffman’s sisters, Dawn Gominsky and Connie Cole, said their brother did not abuse Phillips.
“He’s not that type of person,” Gominsky said.
The sisters said that Hoffman was “pushed over the edge” when Phillips fired and evicted him. Hoffman had his own home and business when the two first met, and thought he had some stake in the home and business he shared with Phillips.
“His whole life he worked 15 years for was stolen from him,” Gominsky said. “Does it make it right what happened to Kelly? Absolutely not.
“Somebody took everything you owned, you may be capable of the same thing, you know?”
The sisters, who spoke with Hoffman two days before the sentencing, said their brother was instructed by his attorneys not to speak Tuesday.
As they left the courthouse, Phillips’ family said there was nothing Hoffman could have said that would have mattered to them.
“In the past, all that’s come out of his mouth is lies,” said Judy Phillips.
“He’s a coward,” Bailey said. “I’m not surprised he didn’t speak.”