A Hennepin County jury reached speedy verdicts Tuesday evening, convicting a taekwondo master from St. Paul of aiding first-degree attempted murder in connection to the ambush shooting of a Minneapolis police crime scene investigator and mother of their son.
After two weeks of testimony, it took jurors roughly an hour of deliberation to find Timothy Amacher guilty of aiding first-degree attempted murder and aiding an accomplice after the fact. He was accused of plotting to kill Nicole Lenway with his ex-girlfriend and former student, Colleen Purificacion Larson.
Lenway was among dozens of witnesses called to the stand throughout the trial. She was shot April 20, 2022, point-blank range in the neck and testified for eight hours about her toxic relationship with Amacher, who she met at his martial arts studio in 2012.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton said in his closing argument Tuesday that Amacher is the only person with the motive to kill Lenway, who miraculously survived the shooting and “ten years of hell that he’s put her through.”
“All that harassment, all that stalking, abuse, threats, false reports of child abuse,” Lofton said. “Throughout that you start to get a sense of who this man is, of his world view, of how far he’s willing to go.”
Larson, 25, has said Amacher, 41, pressured her into carrying out the attack outside FamilyWise, a supervised visit and exchange center in Minneapolis where Amacher had weekly visitation with his son.
Larson is charged with attempted first-degree murder and her trial is set for January.
While Amacher was inside FamilyWise with his son, surveillance video shows Lenway walking up to the facility and Larson running up from behind with her arm extended. Lenway fell to the sidewalk after the first shot, and she testified that Larson stood above her and fired again.
“What would drive [Larson] to try to do this?” Lofton said. “It’s not her son she doesn’t have custody of. It’s not her son she has to see under lock and key. She’s not the one who has been in a four year custody battle.”
“This was an assassination attempt, it’s just that simple,” Lofton said.
Prosecutors point to key pieces of evidence that they say shows Amacher’s premeditation and coordination with Larson: The day before the shooting, he registered for a new license plate on his Dodge Ram truck that Larson used to drive that day to FamilyWise, and she arrived 7 minutes before Lenway; On the day of the shooting, the truck is without plates; then temporary license plates were on the truck the day after the shooting.
Amacher didn’t tell police immediately after the shooting that he owned a Dodge Ram, Lofton said. He also didn’t express any concern when police told him that the mother of his son was shot just right outside.
“It had nothing to do with me,” he told police inside FamilyWise, which is recorded on officer body worn cameras. “I didn’t even hear gun shots.”
The attempted murder weapon, a .388 handgun, was never located. Amacher said he owned two in his arsenal. One he sold to Steve Schleicher, a trial attorney who served on the prosecution team in the Derek Chauvin trial who testified that he purchased the firearm from Amacher.
Amacher told police he gave the other .388 to Lenway, which she denied in testimony. An empty .388 case was found in Amacher’s home along with .388 spent shell casings. A firearm expert testified that they matched the casings at the crime scene.
Lofton said the biggest smoking gun is the fact that no phone calls or text messages were exchanged between Amacher and Larson during and after the shooting, which suggests they had the entire thing planned.
Amacher’s attorney, Larry Reed, moved Judge Shereen Askalani to acquit his client of the charges because he said the state did not present any evidence that proves Amacher aided and abetted Larson. Askalani declined. Reed didn’t call any witnesses to the stand and Amacher waived his right to testify.
Reed said in his closing argument there is no evidence or testimony that Amacher gave Lenway a .388 gun. He said Amacher “100% cooperated” with police, handing his phone over to police and sharing with them his concern about Lenway allegedly abusing their son.
“All he wanted was for her to be a good mother to her son,” Reed said.
He told jurors that he would understand if they found the weeks of testimony a “needless waste of time” as it focused too much on Larson, child custody and smearing of Amacher.
“But you are his only hope,” Reed said. “He cannot get justice without you.”