The search for accused murderer Lyle "Ty" Hoffman shifted to Prior Lake Wednesday as helicopters and law enforcement officials swarmed an area near the Mystic Lake Casino, but once again the search turned up nothing.
Ramsey County Chief Deputy John Kirkwood says they set up surveillance in the woods near the casino Tuesday after they received information that Hoffman was seen in the casino, WCCO reports. Officials have said Hoffman – suspected in a bank robbery Sunday – is known to gamble and enjoys playing blackjack, noting that he has visited Las Vegas and local casinos extensively in the past.
The search for Hoffman intensified in the area Wednesday morning, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office said, after possible sightings of the fugitive were reported, but by Wednesday afternoon the search, which included local police, SWAT and a State Patrol helicopter, turned up empty.
Officials told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the search for the suspect could resume anytime.
“I don’t think he’s out to hurt anyone, but obviously we have to be very safe and cautious,” Ramsey County Chief Deputy John Kirkwood said, according to KSTP.
Officials believe Hoffman is getting help from someone, as well as using public transportation. Police released a photo Wednesday afternoon of an SUV that picked up a man matching Hoffman's description near the casino, hoping it would turn up new leads.
But the Ramsey County Sheriff's office later released a statement saying the owner of the Chevy Trailblazer had contacted law enforcement and investigators determined the vehicle had no connection to Hoffman.
“We’re going to group up here, put our heads together to come up with leads we haven’t followed,” Kirkwood said, according to KSTP. “We’ll follow every lead we can.”
Wednesday's search came after a possible Hoffman sighting led to an all-day manhunt at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport Tuesday. The search, which included a SWAT team, helicopter crew, and officers from several jurisdictions, turned up nothing.
Mystic Lake Casino and the airport are about 40 miles apart.
Hoffman, 44, is charged in the killing of Boston Scientific executive Kelly Phillips, his former boyfriend and business partner, at an Arden Hills gas station Aug. 11. Hoffman has managed to evade capture since then.
Authorities said again Tuesday they suspect someone in the area is harboring Hoffman, which would be a felony.
Police also believe it was Hoffman who robbed a Blaine TCF Bank at gunpoint Sunday afternoon. They searched the immediate area after the robbery, but didn’t find the suspect. A red dye packet concealed with the money may have stained both the money and the robber, authorities say. (Hoffman is pictured at the left above. On the right is a surveillance image taken during the bank robbery.)
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office says Hoffman is considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached.
Authorities ask anyone who sees Hoffman or anything suspicious in the area of the Anoka County Airport to contact police at 911 immediately.
Law enforcement officers also spent several hours Monday searching for Hoffman near the airport without success. WCCO reports they searched the airfield hangar by hangar.
Friends and family of Phillips are offering a reward of $25,000 for any information leading to his arrest. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office recently issued a revised wanted poster for Hoffman, which reflects the increased reward.
Hoffman and Phillips were business partners and life partners for several years, and together they opened the Lush Food Bar in Minneapolis. Police believe Hoffman killed Phillips after a falling out over the business.