MINNEAPOLIS - The wife of a former Minnesota Viking accused in a fatal hit-and-run says she didn't realize she had run over a man the night of the accident last August.
Amy Senser testified in her own defense Monday as her trial entered its second week. While on the stand, Senser said she recalled seeing construction signs in the area of Interstate 94 and the Riverside Avenue exit, but did not recall seeing a car parked on the shoulder of the ramp.
Anousone Phanthavong, a restaurant cook who was filling his car with gas, died after being hit on the ramp.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Senser if she knew what she hit was Phanthavong. Senser replied, "No." She also testified she did not see Phanthavong's body come onto the hood of her SUV.
Senser choked up several times as she told jurors she thought she had struck something else.
"I have never been in an accident," Senser testified. "I wasn't sure if it was a pothole or construction sign... I just assumed that I hit a barrel."
Senser said the motion was loud enough to get her attention and she remembers feeling a jolt. She said she looked in her rearview mirror and didn't see anything.
Senser was driving west on I-94 when she decided to turn around and return to St. Paul to pick up her daughter from a concert at the Xcel Energy Center. When at the top of the exit ramp at Riverside, Senser says she tried to follow detour signs to get back onto I-94. "I kept getting turned around," Senser said.
She also said she was likely going 50 to 55 miles per hour while exiting.
After the exit, Senser said she called her daughter to say she was lost. Amy told her daughter to call Joe so he could pick up the girls from the concert. Joe Senser, Amy's husband, was a tight end for the Vikings for four seasons in the early 1980s.
Senser said she returned home and parked her car in the driveway. She said she did not look at her car in the dark.
The following morning, Senser said she remembered she had hit something. She said she looked at her SUV in the driveway and saw it was damaged. Amy said she told Joe, adding he was mad and he told her to deal with the damage.
Senser said she and Joe took a second look at the damage soon thereafter.
Joe then found a news report online describing a fatal accident on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp from I-94, Amy said. Amy testified that Joe asked, "Where were you when you hit the thing?"
"I said 'that is the exit I was on. That has to be the accident I saw coming home,'" Amy testified.
"It's still difficult to believe it was my vehicle," Senser said.
Senser did not refute earlier testimony from a state witness who said they saw her on I-94 at about 11:45 p.m. That witness testified Senser was driving carelessly and weaving, driving 40 miles per hour.
During her own testimony, Senser said at that point of her drive, she had dropped her cell phone and it became lodged next to her seat for some time. Amy said Joe kept calling so she had to move her seat twice to recover her phone.
Senser said that she had only part of a glass of wine the night of the accident. Senser said she didn't think it affected her ability to drive.
Senser also said Monday she came forward against her lawyer's wishes. "The reason why I came forward at that time was because if I could clear up [Brittani] wasn't the driver. That would help her situation," she said.
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