Shawn Eckardt was a bumbling mastermind. That’s one way to put his role in the infamous Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan caper anyway.
Eckardt was overshadowed at the time by Harding; her ex-husband, the famously mustachioed Jeff Gillooly; and by Shane Stant, who actually delivered the blow to Nancy Kerrigan’s knee cap with a metal baton. However, the movie, I, Tonya, characterizes Eckardt as a key player in the attack: the overweight couch potato who fancied himself as an international spy type while really living a sedentary life in his mother’s house.
It was Eckardt, the movie portrays, who helped hatch the plot to bring down Kerrigan, Harding’s main figure skating rival as the Olympics loomed. Gillooly and his group of goons became some of the notorious figures of the 1990s, in what was a new media, fixated-on-crime, needing-to-fill-a-24-hour-news-hole age. Eckardt gave interviews early on, but then he vanished into a life of obscurity that didn’t last very long.
Fast forward to 2017. Where is Shawn Eckardt today? What happened to him?
Eckardt is dead. He lived for more than a decade after the infamous attack plunged him into the headlines. The former Harding bodyguard died at the age of 40 in 2007 of natural causes, according to his obituary in The New York Times. The obituary reports that, when Eckardt died, he was living in Beaverton, Oregon.
After the attack, he changed his name to Brian Sean Griffith. Other key figures in the Harding caper also changed their names after serving their prison terms. For example, her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, changed his name to Jeff Stone to avoid the media attention.
As The New York Times recounted, “Days after the attack, Griffith confessed, detailing a plan that he and Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had hatched. Griffith was sentenced to 18 months in prison for racketeering but was released four months early, in September 1995.”
The Times reported that Eckardt went on to start a computer business but it failed. He did not leave a blemish-free life after the attack. “He was also sentenced to three years’ probation for misdemeanor assault in 2001,” The New York Times noted.
According to The Associated Press, “He started a computer business, Applied Information Systems Inc., in 2001, but state records show it was dissolved in 2005. He was also sentenced to three years’ probation for misdemeanor assault in 2001.” The AP noted that Eckardt “changed his name after the attack in an attempt to put it behind him.” At the time of his death, his family declined to comment on how his life unfolded in the years after the attack, the AP noted.
As for Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband, and Shane Stant, the man who actually wielded the baton? Both men also went on to lives of obscurity, with Stant developing a career in marketing and turning his life around and Gillooly changing his name to Jeff Stone.
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You can read more about Shane Stant here.