Hit and Run Trial Pits NFL Star's Daughter Against His Wife

PHOTO:  Amy Senser leaves with her husband, former Minnesota Vikings football star Joe Senser, right, after a court appearance in Minneapolis. A
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The daughter of a former NFL star testified in court Wednesday against her stepmother, who is on trial for a hit-and-run incident that left a man dead on a Minneapolis interstate ramp last summer.

Brittani Senser, an aspiring reality television star and singer, faced off against her stepmother Amy Senser in a Minneapolis courthouse Wednesday, where the wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser is accused of the fatal hit-and-run.

Anousone Phanthavong, 38, was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle as he refueled his stalled car on an Interstate 94 ramp in Minneapolis on August 24. Last September an attorney for the Sensers said that Amy Senser was driving the vehicle that struck and killed Phanthavong.

Amy Senser, who faces three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In emotional testimony Wednesday, Brittani Senser detailed how she forced her stepmother to admit to the crime. While testifying, Britanni said she was angry after media reports that linked her to the accident; reports that the vehicle involved in the accident was registered to Joe Senser had surfaced immediately after Phanthavong's death.

Brittani was concerned, she told the court, because she and her fiancé knew Phanthavong's brother, and people began to ask her if she was involved in the man's death, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"I wanted my dad to stand up for me and say I didn't do it," she told jurors, adding, "for people to think I killed someone made me angry."

Amy Senser's defense lawyers countered that Brittani was actually angry that the hit-and-run had caused damage to her career -- saying that the 28-year-old was more upset about losing a charity singing gig than Phanthavong's death.

Late Wednesday Joe Senser testified that his wife was not drunk the night of the crash. He told the jury that his wife was on antibiotics for a sinus infection. He said that when he asked her about the damage to their Mercedes-Benz the morning of Phanthavong's death, she told him she thought she had hit a traffic cone.

He said he became much more concerned when he saw a news report on Phanthavong's death which indicated that parts found at the scene were of the similar model to their luxury vehicle.

"I said, 'Margaret is this you? Were you in this area?'" Senser told the court he asked his wife -- referring to her by her middle name, he said in court. "She said, 'I had exited that ramp.' I questioned her again. I said, 'Are you sure you hit a construction barrel?' She was adamant about it. I said, 'There was someone struck here fatally, Margaret.' She said there was no way."

"She said, 'I think you're going to be mad, but I think I hit a cone, a construction barrel,'" he told the court.

The 55-year-old former NFL star added that his wife didn't turn herself in until his daughter threatened she would go to the police.

Brittani, who was just 5 years old when her father married Amy, once had a strong relationship with her stepmother -- one that now is no doubt strained.

"This isn't just prosecution-versus-defense. In some ways, it's family member-versus-family remember," KSTP reporter Mark Albert said. "She has now testified against her stepmother ... and you have to wonder how that family is going to be together after this trial."

According to Minnesota law, attorneys involved in cases are forbidden to talk to the media during a trial. Testimony resumes Thursday.

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