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Associated Press, Published April 27 2012

Senser trial: Expert says body wrapped over hood

MINNEAPOLIS – The body of the man Amy Senser is accused of running down last summer would have wrapped over the hood of her sport utility vehicle, a Minnesota State Patrol crash reconstruction expert testified at her trial Friday.

Sgt. Paul Skoglund was the final prosecution witness in Senser’s criminal vehicular homicide trial. The defense contends Senser did not know she had hit someone with her Mercedes-Benz SUV.

Anousone Phanthavong, 38, a chef at a nearby restaurant, was putting gas into his stalled car when he was struck on an interstate exit ramp in Minneapolis on Aug. 23 by a driver who then took off. Senser, wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser, has acknowledged she was behind the wheel.

Phanthavong stood 5 feet, 3 inches, and about 40 percent of his body would be above the leading edge of the vehicle’s hood, Skoglund testified. His injuries show that the way he was standing – with his right side facing traffic – would cause him to slide over the car, not under, Skoglund said.

“His body wrapped over the hood of this vehicle as it accelerated, and then fell over the side,” Skoglund said. “He struck the ground and slid to his final rest.”

Joe Senser testified earlier this week that his wife told him she hit a construction cone. But Skoglund testified a barrel or cone wouldn’t cause the damage to Senser’s vehicle that Phanthavong’s body did.

Skoglund pointed out that a barrel weighs about 33 pounds, and a cone weighs far less. Phanthavong weighed 135 pounds.

Under cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson pointed out that Skoglund doesn’t know what Amy Senser felt or heard as she traveled up the ramp that night, and that she doesn’t have his expertise to base her perceptions of how a crash happened.

Nelson also pointed out that that lack of skid marks on exit ramp is inconsistent with a driver who struck someone and fled in a panic.

“Anyone who would see or perceive something would slam on the brakes, swerve, or leave a mark on the pavement,” Nelson said while questioning Skoglund.

Earlier, the Sensers’ 15-year-old daughter, Molly Senser, testified that her father called her and her 14-year-old sister to his side for a talk the afternoon after the crash, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

“He looked pretty grave, you could say,” Molly Senser said. “He sat my sister and I down and he said, ‘Something terrible has happened.’ He said, ‘I believe that there is a situation in which your mother may have been involved and something happened and somebody died.’”

Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Mabley told jurors they could begin deliberations Tuesday.