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Prosecutors Say Prominent Martial Arts Teacher Recruited Girlfriend To Shoot His Son's Mom

Timothy Amacher, described as a "prominent" martial arts instructor, is accused of recruiting his much-younger girlfriend and former pupil, Colleen Larson, to participate in the attempted murder of the mother of his son, Nicole Lenway.

By Constance Johnson
Man In Handcuffs G

A Minnesota taekwondo master is accused of recruiting a former student turned girlfriend to kill the mother of his 5-year-old son, prosecutors said.

Timothy Allen Amacher, 41, and Colleen Larson, 24, have been charged with aiding and abetting first-degree murder for the April shooting of Nicole Lenway, 33, according to a brief filed in the case and reviewed by Oxygen.comAmacher is also charged with conspiracy and aiding an offender-accomplice after the fact.

Larson was released on June 5, after posting bond. Amacher is being held at the Hennepin County Jail on a $1,000,000 bail.

The victim, Lenway, is a forensic scientist with the Minneapolis Police Department. Amacher is described as a “prominent martial arts instructor” in the court filing.

Amacher allegedly met his current girlfriend, Larson, when she was about 13 years old and she moved into his home around the time his son was born in 2016. She allegedly denied that they were romantically involved until 2021, but often babysat Armacher's son before the court restricted him to supervised visits in the wake of an ongoing, acrimonious custody dispute with Lenway. 

Lenway and Amacher had been romantically involved for four years from 2012 to 2016, but broke up before their son was born on June 20, 2016, prosecutors say.

“After the child’s birth, they attempted to co-parent, but defendant continually threatened victim while also begging for them to reconcile their relationship,” prosecutors wrote in the brief.  “In July of 2017, once victim began dating someone else, defendant’s threatening behavior intensified.”

Over the next four years, relations between the former couple continued to deteriorate, with each filing orders of protection against the other, prosecutors say. They added that Amacher has “falsely accused [the] victim of child abuse on a least a dozen occasions. “

Amacher also accused Lenway of domestic assault in May 2018, but a jury acquitted her of all charges on Jan. 11, 2019.

After the verdict, the judge told Lenway, “I want to say, congratulations to you. I can’t imagine the ordeal you have been through.”

Lenway was shot on April 20 outside Family Wise, a parenting center in Minneapolis. At the time of the shooting, Amacher was having a supervised visit with the estranged couple’s son, according to the legal brief.

She survived and was released from the hospital after receiving treatment for a perforated lung and gunshot wounds to the neck and arm, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, a 2022 Black Dodge Ram with no license plate was captured on surveillance video at 7:21 p.m. on April 20 driving past the Family Wise parking lot and then parking about a block away. They allege that the car belonged to Amacher, but that Larson was driving.

Lenway got out of her car in the Family Wise parking lot at 7:28 p.m., at which point prosecutors say Larson — dressed in all black and wearing a face mask — ran to catch up to her.

“About ten seconds later, Ms. Larson pulled out a gun and began firing at Lenway," they wrote in court documents. "Surveillance video from a business across the street shows victim fell after Ms. Larson shot her, and that Ms. Larson continued to shoot at victim after she was on the ground. Ms. Larson turned to run back south toward the Dodge Ram but saw that the victim had stood up to flee, and continued to shoot her. Victim was able to get away and Ms. Larson ran back to the Dodge Ram."

Police collected three .380 discharged cartridge cases and three live rounds on the ground from the scene of the shooting.

In an interview with Lenway — who was unable to talk at the time and had to write down her answers — at the hospital, she told investigators that Amacher owned about 10 guns and “that she knew something like this would happen someday.”

During the execution of a search warrant at Amacher’s home in St. Paul, police found several firearms but no .380. They did, however, allegedly find an empty case for a .380, magazines for a .380 and discharged .380 cartridge cases.

The Hennepin County Crime Lab compared the cartridge cases found in Amacher's home to those found in the Family Wise parking lot and concluded that they were fired from the same gun.

Initially, both Larson and Amacher denied any involvement in the shooting of Lenway.

Investigators, however, discovered that Larson sent emails to multiple news outlets just three hours before the shooting in which she claimed that “the family court referee was unfairly depriving defendant of his parental rights because defendant is Black.”

“The email outlined some of the same allegations of child abuse that had previously been found to be false, fabricated and/or coached,” according to the brief.

A friend and former roommate of Amacher contacted police nine days after the shooting and told them that another man said Amacher had offered him $50,000 to kill Lenway.

In an interview with police on May 24, Larson allegedly confessed to the crime.

“Ms. Larson stated that she and defendant discussed killing the victim a week or two before the shooting,” according to the brief. “Ms. Larson asked defendant whether he would let her adopt defendant’s son. Defendant told her that victim would never let that happen, but that if victim were not around, he would allow Ms. Larson to adopt his son."

"Later, defendant asked victim if she felt comfortable doing it, and if she could be the one to pull the trigger,” they added.

Larson allegedly told police that, after the shooting, she cut up her clothes and gave Amacher the gun.

Prosecutors said Amacher took advantage of Larson, who they describe as a “significantly younger and disturbingly loyal former pupil of his.”

Oxygen.com was unable to reach the attorneys representing Amacher or Larson.