Joe Senser expected back on witness stand in wife's hit-and-run trialby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — A day after testifying that his wife, Amy, thought she had driven into a construction cone the night her car struck and killed 38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong on an I-94 exit ramp, Minnesota Viking Joe Senser is expected to continue testifying Thursday at her vehicular homicide trial.
He was called as a witness by the prosecution. Under Minnesota law he can't be compelled to testify against his wife, but she gave permission so that he could testify about private conversations between the two of them.
According to the complaint, Phanthavong, a chef at True Thai restaurant in Minneapolis, was standing with a gas can next to his stalled Honda Accord along the I-94 off-ramp onto Riverside Ave. late at night on Aug. 23, 2011. State Patrol investigators say Senser struck Phanthavong with such force that his body was thrown 40 feet. Troopers at the scene found auto body parts matching a Mercedes Benz GLK300, a model similar to the ML350 SUV Amy Senser was driving.
Senser is facing three counts of criminal vehicular homicide for leaving the scene of a crash, failing to notify authorities in a timely manner and for gross negligence.
On Tuesday, Joe Senser testified that on the night of the incident, he dropped off his two youngest daughters and their friends at a concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. He said the plan was for Amy Senser to pick the girls up after the show and take them home.
Joe Senser said after he went to bed his daughter, Hannah, called him from the Xcel center. He got in his car to drive to St. Paul. He also tried to call Amy Senser. He said at first she could not be reached, but he finally got through and told her he was on his way to pick up the four girls. He said she thanked him and told him she was lost.
Joe Senser said his wife arrived home before him and parked the Mercedes-Benz SUV in the driveway. He said she did not appear to be agitated or intoxicated.
Joe Senser testified that the next morning Amy Senser told him, "I think you're going to be mad. I think I hit a construction cone." He said at first the damage did not look to be bad, but upon closer examination, he started to suspect Amy Senser had hit something other than an orange, rubber construction cone.
Pictures of the damaged SUV were displayed in the courtroom. The photos showed the car's right-front quarter-panel was dented, the right headlight housing was broken and pieces were missing, and part of the hood was folded under. Small spatters of blood could be seen in a few spots. There was also a patch of what investigators called 'bodily tissue' stuck to part of the crumpled hood.
Joe Senser said at some point that morning he checked a news website and found the story about a fatal crash that occurred the night before. Amy Senser told him she was on the ramp where the crash occurred, but she told him she wasn't involved in it.
Joe Senser said in 22 years of marriage, Amy Senser had never lied to him. So he believed her. But he said he called a lawyer and turned over the car to authorities because, he told the court, it was the ethical thing to do.
Joe Senser's testimony will continue this morning when the trial begins its fourth day.
The trial's third day also featured the conclusion of testimony by Brittani Senser, Joe Senser's daughter from a previous marriage. Brittani Senser testified that she knew the brother of the hit-and-run victim. She also said she had received calls from mutual friends asking her if she was the driver of the car involved in the accident.
Also, an investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said he examined Amy Senser's cell phone and found that 45 text messages had been deleted from it the day after the crash.
- Morning Edition, 04/26/2012, 7:45 a.m.