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Anousone Phanthavong family remembers chef ahead of Amy Senser trial

For Anousone Phanthavong's parents, justice will come once they reach the "peace of mind that their son just didn't die like roadkill on the street."

Cindi Phanthavong, Anousone's niece, spoke to reporters this afternoon about her dead uncle, who she described as a quiet, "hard-working man" who would do "everything" for his family.

Amy Senser, wife of Minnesota Vikings star Joe Senser, will stand trial next week on charges of criminal vehicular homicide for running over Phanthavong in her Mercedes last August.

Phanthavong, formerly the head chef at True Thai restaurant, was a selfless man, according to Cindi, who cared deeply for his family.

Amy Senser killed Anousone Phanthavong
Amy Senser killed Anousone Phanthavong

"He does everything for his family. He doesn't expect anything for himself," Cindi said. "He'll take jeans and a T-shirt and give his all to my grandparents. That's all he ever cared for: T-shirt and jeans. He needed nothing else."

Her big memory of Anousone, Cindi said, is that he never forgot his relatives.

"No matter how much he struggled as a cook, he would never, ever forget," Cindi said. "He worked so much but never forget about my grandparents, never left us behind, just always called in and checked on us, little things, [like] calling, stopping by maybe two minutes, popping his head in."

Cindi, 27, described Anousone, who was 38 at the time of his death, as being like a father, a brother, and a friend. He was "cool" and "strict," Cindi said, and always looked out for her.

The last time she talked with her uncle, Cindi said, was a couple days before he was killed. Anousone tried to give her guidance.

"He just told me not to go out too much and keep myself safe and stay home with my kids," Cindi said. "Something a father would tell me."

In addition to sharing blood, Cindi and her uncle were colleagues at True Thai restaurant for almost six years.

Anousone was "soft" and "caring," Cindi said, and also "shy." He didn't like to be photographed and avoided the spotlight, preferring to live his life "low."

Anousone lived alone, about 15 minutes from his parents, who live just a few minutes from True Thai restaurant. That made it "easy for him to hop in and out" during slow hours at work, and check in on his parents, Cindi said. He used to work every day, Cindi said, often for 10 hours a day.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's office has charged Amy Senser with felony criminal vehicular homicide
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's office has charged Amy Senser with felony criminal vehicular homicide

It used to make Anousone happy when his nieces and nephews would visit True Thai.

"He would love when they came to the restaurant," Cindi said. Cindi has two children, an 8-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter, who Anousone always asked about.

Cindi thinks Anousone learned to cook from her grandfather and great-grandfather in Laos, when he was a teenager.

The family keeps close watch on the case, Cindi says. Her grandparents call every time they hear something about the Senser case in the media. Cindi said she believes that the Senser case exposes a class issue in our society.

"Yes, I do," Cindi said.

The media, Cindi said, seemed to focus on Amy Senser being "the victim." But her family has had much support from the public, which she appreciates.

"There is a lot of support from everywhere, and we're very very thankful for all the support that there is," Cindi said.

Cindi said the family wants "justice" in this case. For her, it's about putting her grandparents at ease.

"He's already in peace," Cindi said. "Now it's just for my grandparents to be at peace and just, a weight off their shoulders."

She hopes that her grandparents won't have to wake up and watch the news to see "what else are they going to say about [their] son."

Cindi's attorney forbade her from answering questions about the trial. But asked what justice in this context meant, Cindi said, "For my grandparents' peace of mind that their son just didn't die like roadkill on the street."

Still, Cindi says the family will be able to forgive Amy Senser someday.

"Whenever she takes responsibility," Cindi said.

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