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Joe Senser: Wife said she struck construction cone

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser testified Wednesday his wife told him she hit a construction cone the morning after a man was killed on a highway exit ramp.

But Senser said he knew his wife had not hit a cone as she claimed, because of the damage to his Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle.

"I said, "Margaret, is this you? Were you in this area?'" Senser said he asked his wife Amy, referring to her by her middle name.

"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."

Amy Senser is on trial on criminal vehicular homicide charges, accused of running down Anousone Phanthavong, 38, last August as he filled his car's gas tank on an Interstate 94 ramp in Minneapolis. She has said she was behind the wheel, but that she did not know she hit a person.

The morning after the crash, Joe Senser said his wife told him she hit either a cone or construction barrel, the Star Tribune reported.

"She said, 'I think you're going to be mad, but I think I hit a cone, a construction barrel,'" he testified. He said he told her to contact the insurance company, and became concerned when he took a closer look.

"I called Margaret and said, 'What's going on here, this looks like you hit a deer.' I don't mean any disrespect to the (victim's) family, but it looked odd," he said.

"Because of the blood?" Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Deborah Russell asked.

Earlier Wednesday, an expert witness testified that 45 text messages were deleted from Amy Senser's cellphone the day after the crash, in a pattern that likely was not random.

Donald Cheung, an analyst with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said he believes "someone went in there and physically deleted those messages."

In cross-examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson pointed out that Amy Senser had 626 text messages on her phone dating to May 2011, with several periods when it appeared that multiple text messages were deleted -- some in two-week time spans predating the crash. Nelson added that no one knows what Amy Senser's habits are for deleting text messages.

Joe Senser's daughter wrapped up her testimony Wednesday morning. Brittani Senser said she and her fiance knew the victim's brother and that relatives of Phanthavong began calling her shortly after the crash, asking whether she was responsible for the death.

Those calls helped prompt Brittani Senser to press her father and stepmother to go to the Minnesota State Patrol and say that Amy Senser had been driving the SUV that night.

"For people to think I had killed someone made me angry," Brittani Senser said.

Jurors on Wednesday also saw photos of the damaged SUV involved in the crash.