It began with a fourth-place finish in China, Japan, a result that, except in the mind of Tonya Harding, could not have been less extraordinary. Competing for something called the NHK Trophy, Harding fell on her combination jump in the technical program, a disastrous error, which eventuated in her being beaten by three of the best skaters in the world, Surya Bonaly of France, Yuka Sato of Japan and Lu Chen of China.
Harding thought she had skated well, certainly well enough to finish higher than fourth. When Harding returned home to Portland, in mid-December, her live-in ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, lent a sympathetic ear. Because Tonya wasn't the darling and cover girl of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, because she wasn't Nancy Kerrigan, she would never be given a fair shake by the judges and the press. He knew it, and she knew it. And fourth-place finishes by the hardscrabble Harding were not going to provide them the ticket to fame and fortune they both so desperately sought.
Gillooly explained all this to his lifelong friend Shawn Eckardt around the 16th of December. Gillooly doesn't remember where they were at the time, but they certainly made quite a pair. Gillooly, trim, well-groomed, tight-lipped, weighed in at 143. Eckardt, rotund, unkempt, bigmouthed, weighed 311. They had been in the same first-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes and in the same freshman class at David Douglas High. Both were now 26 and, essentially, unemployed. Eckardt had dropped out of high school and was currently enrolled in a paralegal course at Pioneer Pacific College—that is, when he wasn't running the grandly titled World Bodyguard Services from the second floor of his parents' Portland home. Eckardt had no clients and few prospects, but his imagination was world class. His rèsumè would have put James Bond's to shame. Never mind that little of it appears to have been true.
Gillooly? He'd been out of work since quitting his warehouse job at the Oregon Liquor Control Commission in March 1992. Harding was his meal ticket, and he passed his time by being her money manager and sometime gofer. He reportedly was an abusive husband, but there is little hard evidence of this—no broken bones or black eyes—and Harding herself has been inconsistent on the subject. Though in the past she had been granted restraining orders against him, in her most recent interviews with the FBI, she says she was not abused by Gillooly. They were married in 1990, divorced last August, but had been back living together in a rented house in Beavercreek since October. "I thought I was renting to a couple of love-struck kids," their landlord, Melvin Babb, recently said. "One who might skate in the Olympics."
In Gillooly's account to the FBI—a version of events that largely squares with the statements to authorities made by Eckardt and two other confessed conspirators in the case, Derrick Smith and Shane Stant, but which is disputed by Harding (box, previous page)—he said the original idea to disable Kerrigan was Eckardt's. Eckardt told investigators it was Gillooly who first floated the notion. Whichever is the case, Eckardt was immediately intrigued. Such an attack, he figured, would cause a panic in the figure skating world. Hordes of rich skaters, he fantasized, egged on by his old pal Gillooly, would flock to his World Bodyguard Service for protection. "How's it gonna feel driving that brand-new ZR1 Corvette?" Eckardt says Gillooly asked him.
According to Gillooly's FBI statement, when he told Harding about his conversation with Eckardt, she liked the idea of injuring Kerrigan. But she was skeptical about whether Eckardt, a notorious blowhard, was the right man to arrange it. How could he know anyone who would do something like that? Gillooly says he told her that it was Eckardt's business to know such people and that Eckardt would get back to him. If they didn't like what Eckardt came up with, they could pull the plug on the project then.
Around Dec. 22 Smith called Eckardt from Phoenix. Smith was 29, 6'1", 258 pounds and recently unemployed. He and his wife, Suzanne, had moved from Portland to Arizona in October with two other couples. One of those couples was Stant and his girlfriend, Leslie Thomas.
Smith had hated the weather in Oregon. He nurtured a dream of quitting his Portland job with Developmental Systems, Inc., where he supervised the work of mentally retarded adults, and starting a paramilitary survival school in the Arizona desert. Smith had met Eckardt about 10 years ago when both were taking a course at Mount Hood Community College; he was calling now because he thought Eckardt might be interested in moving down to help get the school off the ground. Then, by way of making conversation, he asked if anything else was going on.
Eckardt says he told Smith he had a client who needed someone "taken down." The act might involve a physical confrontation and, hopefully, some bodyguard work afterward. But it would definitely not involve a killing. Did Smith know anyone? Smith, who had no criminal record, told Eckardt he had a fellow in mind, and he would get back to him soon.
Stant, 22, was a bodybuilder, a muscular 225-pounder. A martial-arts expert and health-food nut, he, too, was interested in helping Smith set up his survival school. Part Hawaiian, part American Indian, Stant was one of those guys who seldom finished what they started. Like Eckardt, he was a high school dropout. He had enlisted in the Oregon National Guard in 1989 but was discharged when he failed three times to show up for a secondary physical. He once worked as a busboy for eight days in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, but was fired for not showing up for work. At another time he was arrested and served 15 days in jail for stealing cars. In 1992 Stant tried out for the Oregon Thunderbolts, a semipro football team, but left without explanation after a month. He had also been involved in his share of bar fights.
Since moving to Phoenix, Stant had been unable to find work. He regularly worked out in a gym, then would roam the streets in his neighborhood, picking up stray dogs, which he would bring home to feed. When Smith told him about the job that Eckardt was offering, Stant asked for more specifics. A short time after that, Eckardt called Stant directly. The job, he said, was to "make an accident happen" to a skater. As Stant tells it, Eckardt suggested that an Achilles tendon be cut. Stant said he would not cut anyone, and Eckardt revised the job description. The skater, he said, would have to be injured sufficiently that she would not be able to go to the upcoming national championships in Detroit. The fee was $2,500. Eckardt sweetened the pie by mentioning a bodyguard contract of $36,000 a week for a five-man team to provide security for Harding before the Lillehammer Olympics. This was pure hogwash, of course. But Stant was in, and he visited a store called Spy Headquarters and purchased a black, 21-inch retractable ASP tactical baton, shelling out $58.56, tax included.
Shortly afterward Eckardt visited Gillooly and Harding at their home. Gillooly says Eckardt put the cost of an attack on Kerrigan at $4,500, including airplane tickets, bus fare and the purchase of a used car to drive in Boston, plus food and lodging. Gillooly said that was too expensive. Eckardt asked what Gillooly and Harding could afford. Gillooly's response: $2,000. That was too little, Eckardt said.
A few days later Eckardt and Gillooly met again; Eckardt said he had the men lined up for the Kerrigan job and that they were ready to go. But Eckardt and Gillooly couldn't agree on a price, and according to Gillooly, he asked Eckardt to call the whole thing off. Eckardt said it was too late, that his reputation was on the line. On Christmas, Smith called to say he was coming to Portland and would arrive in about 18 hours: Eckardt and Gillooly could resolve their differences then.
Smith and Stant would be arriving in the early afternoon on Monday, Dec. 27, and Eckardt told Gillooly it would be a good idea to have some personal information on Kerrigan: a photograph, her address, the location of the rink where she skated. According to Gillooly's FBI statement, he passed this request on to Harding, suggesting she call a journalist of their acquaintance, Vera Marano, who lived in West Chester, Pa. Harding, Gillooly says, agreed to do so, saying she would tell Marano that she and Gillooly had a bet regarding where Kerrigan lived, and Marano could settle the bet. Harding also mentioned a poster of Kerrigan. Kristi Yamaguchi and Harding that she could say she needed Kerrigan to sign.
Interviewed by the FBI, Marano said the following: On Dec. 26 Harding called her, saying she needed to settle a bet. She asked Marano if she could find out where Kerrigan trained and if Kerrigan owned any property on Cape Cod. Marano told Harding she would try to get that information and would get back to her. Marano did this by calling a friend in Massachusetts, Dorothy Baker, a member of the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Baker told Marano that Kerrigan trained at Tony Kent Arena on Cape Cod. Baker would not provide any information about Kerrigan's place of residence. Marano called Harding back and left the information on an answering machine.
Gillooly told the FBI that when he and Harding listened to the tape, it sounded as though Marano were saying Kerrigan trained at "Toby Can" arena. They couldn't understand it. Gillooly says that Harding called Marano back on Dee. 27 and that he heard her ask Marano to "spell it out." Harding wrote down "Tony Kent Arena." Alter hanging up. Harding told him that Marano couldn't find out where Kerrigan lived. They then started looking for a picture of Kerrigan, and Gillooly found a brochure containing a photo of Yamaguchi, Harding and Kerrigan.
The drive by Smith and Stant to Portland from Phoenix, straight through, took 22 hours in Smith's black Porsche 944. Upon arrival the two men checked in at the Del Rancho Motel, across the street from a 7-Eleven, and paid in cash, registering under Stant's name. On Monday night, Dee. 27, Eckardt called Gillooly and told him that the guy who would carry out the attack had arrived. Time was short, and they wanted to meet the next morning at 10. Gillooly told him Harding was training at that time but he would try to get there as close to 10 as possible.
Harding's practice session was over at 10:30 a.m. Gillooly put gas in their blue Ford pickup, then, with Harding as a passenger, drove to the army-green, two-story house in which Shawn lives with his parents, Ron and Agnes. According to Gillooly, Harding knew what the meeting was about, and she was none too thrilled over his having direct contact with a possible hit man. Parked in the drive was Eckardt's 1976 green Mercury four-door and Smith's Porsche, which stood out like a pumpkin in a radish patch. Gillooly told Harding he would call her when the meeting was over, and she drove off in the pickup.
It was 11 a.m. when Gillooly arrived. While they were waiting, Smith had asked Eckardt to tape the conversation. The tape, he said, might be useful leverage if things went wrong and Gillooly refused to pay up. Eckardt put a pocket tape recorder on the desk and covered it with a paper towel. When Gillooly arrived, Eckardt's mother let him in. Eckardt's father was also in the house. Agnes told Gillooly, "They're in the office."
Eckardt's office was half a flight up, a small, converted bedroom with a window facing the street. He owned a computer, and his neatly stacked bookshelves had volumes arranged by subjects. The Poor Man's James Bond and The Anarchist Cookbook were among Eckardt's collection. He also had an impressive array of catalogs on SWAT and mercenary equipment.
Gillooly knocked on the office door, and a man he later learned was Stant let him in. Stant was wearing a baggy black Australian-outback coat, a hat and black fingerless gloves. Eckardt introduced Gillooly to Derrick, using only his first name. I le introduced Stant by saying simply. "This is his friend."
"It's a pleasure," Stant said. Then he clammed up.
Derrick told Gillooly he was the type of guy who solved other people's problems. Eckardt asked Gillooly if he'd brought the information on Kerrigan, and Gillooly put the material on the desk. Eckardt looked at the picture of Kerrigan and remarked, "She's good-looking."
Gillooly told the other men that if Harding could get to the Olympics and win, she would have endorsements and a truck-load of money. Because of that, Gillooly would be able to offer $1,000 a week to provide security for Harding. To qualify for the Olympics, however, she had to do well at the nationals. Kerrigan was the primary obstacle.
They discussed various ways of disabling Kerrigan. Smith and Stant told the FBI that Eckardt again suggested cutting an Achilles tendon, but everyone else opposed that idea. Eckardt then floated the suggestion of buying a "beater" ear in Boston and running Kerrigan off the road. "A couple of broken ribs should do it," he figured. That, too, was nixed. Gillooly then explained to the others that Kerrigan's right leg was her landing leg—he said he'd verified that the day before with Harding—and that was the leg to be disabled. Derrick told him he had a guy in mind who was a martial-arts expert. He could break Kerrigan's right leg with "a short kick to the long bone."
In their FBI interviews Gillooly and Stant quoted Eckardt as asking, "Wouldn't it be easier to just kill her?" Gillooly and Smith replied that they weren't going to get into that and ignored Eckardt while he fantasized about where he could position a sniper with a rifle. It was settled, then. Someone would break Kerrigan's right leg. It was also determined that a note would be left at the scene of the attack, so it would look like a psychotic was stalking all the top skaters. All the better for the bodyguard business.
When the talk turned to money, a figure of $6,000 for expenses was mentioned, with $2,000 up front. Eckardt assured Gillooly that if his henchmen couldn't disable Kerrigan before the nationals, Gillooly would get his $2,000 back. They were offering a money-back guarantee. Smith joked that they could always raise that money by selling Eckardt's computer and Rolex.
Gillooly then said he had been unable to find Kerrigan's home address but that she trained at Tony Kent Arena. He said he would find out the times that Kerrigan would be on the ice and get back to Eckardt later in the day. As they were preparing to leave, Derrick wanted Gillooly's word that if things worked out, he would "open doors" for him to provide bodyguarding contracts for other figure skaters and make important contacts. "Like George Steinbrenner," Eckardt said, referring to the New York Yankee owner, who's also a U.S. Olympic official and a recent sponsor of Harding's. Gillooly assured Derrick that he would do everything he could to help. Stant shook Gillooly's hand as they left and spoke for the second time in the half-hour meeting. "It was a pleasure," said Stant.
"Those guys are great," Eckardt said after he'd ushered Smith and Stant out. He asked what Gillooly thought. Gillooly said it sounded O.K. to him, but he would have to check with Harding and would get back to him later. Not too long. Eckardt said, and asked how much money Gillooly would be able to come up with. Gillooly told him that $2,000 would be it.
Harding was waiting at Gillooly's mother's house. He called and asked her to pick him up. About 15 minutes later Harding pulled up in the truck. "We're going to make a lot of money, we're going to make a lot of money," Eckardt said, enveloping Gillooly in a blubbery goodbye hug.
Gillooly gave the FBI this account of what happened next: He drove, and Harding asked him how the meeting went. "Not bad," he said. Then he told her that the other men had offered him a money-back guarantee. Harding laughed, and Gillooly told her that he was serious. He said that for $2,000, it was not a bad deal, better than playing the lottery. Then he described the people at the meeting and said he felt more comfortable with Derrick than with his old friend Eckardt. Harding asked him how he felt about the scheme. Gillooly said pretty good, but he would leave the final decision up to her. Harding said she wanted to leave it up to Gillooly. Gillooly said, "I think we should go for it." Harding responded, "O.K., let's do it."
Gillooly told the FBI he remembered exactly where he and Harding were at that moment, driving southbound on Interstate 205, across from Public Storage, a large gray facility with bright orange doors, just a mile from the Clackamas Town Center ice rink where Harding trained.
Gillooly says he told Harding they needed to get some more information for Eckardt's two friends: another picture, if possible, and Kerrigan's skating times. They decided Harding should make the calls, in case the person at the Tony Kent Arena asked any technical questions. Harding would say that she had a daughter who was a big fan of Kerrigan's and that they wanted to see her skate and maybe get an autograph.
Gillooly says that Harding made three calls. The first number she called was a prerecorded message giving the public skating hours at Tony Kent, at the end of which another number was given for further information. Harding dialed the second number and asked for the patch and freestyle times. She wrote down the times and asked if Kerrigan skated then. According to Gillooly, after she hung up, Harding told Gillooly, "The stupid bitch gave it to me." The woman at the Tony Kent Arena had volunteered that Kerrigan's private ice time was noon to 3 p.m. Gillooly asked Harding if she'd gotten the address of the arena, and she told him she'd forgotten. So Harding called the arena a third time and wrote down the address. Harding and Gillooly then searched for another picture of Kerrigan and found two. One was in the World Team handbook, and one was in Olympian magazine. Gillooly, says he was going to take the entire magazine to Eckardt until Harding pointed out that their name and address were on the mailing label. They tore off the cover and threw it in the trash.
Early that evening, Gillooly told the FBI, he and Harding drove back to Eckardt's house with the information on Kerrigan, the additional pictures and $2,700 in cash. This time Harding came inside with him. Agnes Eckardt offered Harding a cup of coffee while Gillooly went into Eckardt's office and handed over the material. Neither Smith nor Stant was around. Harding came into the office a short time later and. Gillooly says, commented that the full-page photo of" Kerrigan was flattering. She wandered out, and Gillooly asked Eckardt where Derrick was. Eckardt said he'd gone to Seattle, where he was putting one of his operatives on a plane to Boston, none of which was true. Eckardt couldn't resist adding that another guy was leaving from Los Angeles and would join the guy from Seattle in Boston. Eckardt also told Gillooly that he and Derrick had put together the note that would be left at the scene, which would say something like, "All skating whores will the. Nobody can shut me off." Gillooly gave Eckardt the money—$2,000 in $100 bills—and Eckardt said he would pass it to Derrick.
Gillooly told the FBI that he walked into the living room and asked Eckardt's mother what she thought. He assumed she knew about the plot. According to Gillooly, whose allegations are disputed by Agnes Eckardt (box, page 29), she replied something like, "I think it will work." Harding looked shocked, and Gillooly said. "It probably surprises you that Agnes knows about this."
Gillooly told the FBI that Shawn then said something like. "She knows everything I know, because she has to take messages from my people."
Agnes, Gillooly says, laughed during this conversation and then said something like, "Of course I know what Shawn docs. I won't tell anyone. He's my son."
When Gillooly and Harding returned to the truck, they expressed their amazement that Agnes seemed to know everything about Shawn. Gillooly quotes Harding, whose relationship with her own mother has always been one of acrimony and mutual distrust, as saying, "That's kinda neat."
Gillooly says he then told Harding that Derrick had a guy leaving from Seattle that night and another from California the next day. Harding asked what they were going to do, and Gillooly used Smith's line: "They're going to break a long bone."
"What's a long bone?" Harding asked.
"I imagine it's your femur," Gillooly replied.
Stant Hew out of Portland the next day, Dec. 29, on a 6:37 a.m. American Airlines flight to Dallas, then caught a connecting flight to Boston. Smith had given him some expense money, the photograph of Kerrigan, a computer printout with background information on Kerrigan and directions to the Tony Kent Arena in Dennis, Mass. Stant was scheduled to return on Jan. 3. They figured that would give him plenty of time to carry out the attack.
But almost immediately things began to go wrong. Stant registered at the airport Hilton in Boston using a credit card. When he tried to rent a car with the card, he was refused, since it was issued in Leslie Thomas's name. Stant had inadvertently grabbed his girlfriend's credit card when he left Phoenix.
Stant called Thomas and asked her to send his card to Boston as soon as possible. It didn't arrive until 6 p.m. the next day, Dec. 30. Stant spent another night at the Hilton, then, on New Year's Eve, drove his rented Chevrolet Cavalier to Yarmouth on Cape Cod, a distance of 80 miles. Kerrigan skated that day but left the Tony Kent Arena by 1:30 p.m. By the time Stant had checked into the Gull Wing Suites, which was 6½ miles from the arena, Kerrigan had already departed; she was on her way to spend the New Year's weekend with her parents in Stoneham, outside Boston. Kerrigan and Stant, traveling in opposite directions, may have passed each other on Route 6.
For the next two days Stant staked out the arena, moving his car to a different location in the lot every half hour.
Meanwhile, back in Portland, Gillooly and Eckardt began to suspect that they'd been swindled out of the $2,000. Smith had driven back to Phoenix, and Eckardt said he had no idea where Smith's two supposed operatives in Boston might be staying. When Eckardt told Gillooly that Derrick had called to ask when he could expect the rest of the expense money, Gillooly said, "What? Do I have stupid written across my forehead?" He refused to forward another dime until there were some results to report or receipts proving that someone was in Boston.
Gillooly says he didn't tell Harding about his suspicions that they'd been had. He says that on either Dec. 30 or 31, Harding mentioned that it would be nice if Derrick's thugs could do the number on Kerrigan in some bar on New Year's Eve. Why? Gillooly wondered. Harding allegedly replied that it would make Kerrigan look bad, as if she hung out with the wrong sort of crowd.
When nothing happened by Jan. 1, Gillooly says, he told Harding he thought they'd been ripped off. He says she agreed and, remembering the money-back guarantee, said that Gillooly should make Eckardt give back the $2,000. That night Harding skated late, from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Gillooly asked Eckardt to be there. Eckardt showed up, and when Gillooly asked him what was going on, Eckardt offered a wild tale about how Derrick's two operatives back in Boston had stolen Kerrigan's car in the process of trying to read her registration to determine her home address. Gillooly didn't know whether to believe him, but he flashed Eckardt a $10,000 check he was carrying around that had been sent to Harding by the USFSA, money Steinbrenner had contributed to Harding's training expenses. Gillooly told Eckardt that maybe the prospect of a $10,000 bonus would motivate those two guys in Boston.
At that point, according to Gillooly and Eckardt, Harding skated up. She asked Eckardt, who had hurt his back several days earlier, how he felt. Then she wanted to know why she could not get anyone to do this thing for her, referring to the Kerrigan attack. She was angry. Eckardt stuttered and said he didn't know. Then, according to Gillooly, Harding said, "If it doesn't get done, you call them and get the $2,000 back."
"Why don't you call?" Eckardt asked. Harding told him it was his responsibility.
Stant, meanwhile, was bumbling around Cape Cod like a muscle-bound Inspector Clouseau. He finally went inside the Tony Kent Arena on Jan. 2 and was told that Kerrigan had not been around. On Jan. 3 Stant called the arena and said he had a daughter who would like to see Kerrigan skate. The woman who answered the phone told him that Kerrigan had already left for the nationals in Detroit. That evening Stant boarded a Greyhound bus for Detroit. The ticket cost $117.
Twenty hours later, tired, hungry and running out of funds, Stant arrived in the Motor City. He checked into the Super 8 motel at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, using his real name, and paid for three nights' lodging in advance, shelling out $101 cash. He rented a videotape machine and a couple of X-rated movies, Hollywood Fantasies and The Girls of Beverly Hills, and retired for the night.
Eckardt, in the meantime, had spoken with Smith. What in the heck was going on? Smith told him his men had staked out the Tony Kent Arena, as planned, but Kerrigan hadn't showed up. An employee at the rink had said Kerrigan was having "quiet time" before the nationals. Eckardt passed this report on to Gillooly, who, according to his statement, passed it on to Harding. She flat-out didn't believe it and called the Tony Kent Arena for a fourth time, on Jan. 3, to determine if Kerrigan had skated that day. Harding said thank you and hung up. Kerrigan had skated early that morning. Harding, Gillooly says, was upset and convinced that their $2,000 investment was history.
The next day, Jan. 4, Harding flew to Detroit for the competition. Eckardt and Gillooly were pretty well resigned by then that the hit was never coming off. Eckardt told Gillooly that he, Eckardt, should have done the job himself. Gillooly returned home at about 10 p.m. and found a message from Stant on his answering machine: "Jeff, this is Shane. We met in Shawn's office about a week ago. I'm in Detroit."
Gillooly immediately called Eckardt, upset. He said this Kerrigan job could not be done in Detroit. Eckardt explained that Derrick did not have enough money to send Stant home and that Stant was going to finish the job, if for no other reason than that Gillooly would then have to pay them. Eckardt claimed that poor Shane hadn't eaten during his 20-hour bus ride from Boston to Detroit because he was broke. At that point, according to Gillooly, he decided to wire another $750 to Derrick so that his operative in Detroit could be sent home.
Smith, however, was pondering that $10,000 bonus, and on Jan. 5 he used the $750 to fly to Detroit to join Stant. Stant had rented a car from Alamo, and the two of them drove to Joe Louis Arena and purchased tickets to that day's practice session at Cobo Arena. Stant made note of the side entrance at the south side of the arena, where the skaters entered and exited. The area was supposed to be secured, but Stant was able to walk down to ice level, pass through a blue curtain and stroll down the hallway leading to the skaters' locker rooms. He scoped the place out for 45 minutes without being challenged by security personnel. At the end of that corridor were Plexiglas doors, one of which was open. Stant was to be the hit man, Smith the getaway driver, and that door was where Stant figured he could make his escape if the job was done at Cobo.
Another possibility was the Westin Hotel, where the skaters were staying. Smith called Eckardt and told him they wanted Kerrigan's room number as well as her practice schedule. Eckardt called Gillooly, and Gillooly called Harding. According to Gillooly, Harding told him there was only one security guard al the Westin and none on her floor. He says that he and Harding decided that the best place to attack Kerrigan would be in her room. According to Gillooly, he spoke by phone with Eckardt, who suggested leaving Kerrigan bound in her room with duct tape after the attack.
Smith and Stant, though, didn't like the idea of an attack in the hotel. Smith had gone to the hotel and discovered it was a 4½-minute walk from the elevator to the street. That was out. They settled on Cobo Arena.
On Jan. 6 Stant and Smith drove to the vicinity of Cobo just before 11 a.m. Stant was wearing a baseball hat, black leather jacket, black jeans, black gloves and brown hiking boots. He put the ASP tactical baton in the belt of his pants. Then he and Smith stole a license plate from a vehicle that resembled their rental car and attached the new plate over the rental's. Stant showed Smith the row of Plexiglas doors where he said he would make his escape from the back of Cobo, and Smith backed the car onto a nearby access street. After the attack they were to meet near the post office about live blocks from the arena.
They walked to the arena. Stant told Smith that he would sit near the blue curtain where the skaters entered the ice and that Smith was to sit on the opposite side of the arena. Stant said that when he spotted Kerrigan and the assault was imminent, he would stand up and sit down. That would be the signal for Smith to go to the car.
Stant took a seat about seven rows up from the ice. Fifteen minutes later he watched as Kerrigan took the ice. He waited until her name was announced, then he stood up and sat down. Smith left the arena. Stant watched Kerrigan skate, watching for video recorders, so he wouldn't be photographed. After her session, at about 2:35 p.m., Kerrigan left the ice. Stant got up from his seat. Kerrigan was followed by a cameraman from ABC, and when the man laid down his camera and turned to his left, Stant darted around him to the right. Two men were standing at the blue curtain, but Stant walked past them. He saw no security people. Kerrigan stopped in the hall outside the dressing room and spoke to Dana Scarton of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Stant drew the baton out of his belt with his right hand and, according to his statement, clutched the "madman" note with his left. Swiftly he walked between Kerrigan and Scarton. He struck one quick, vicious blow to Kerrigan's right leg, just above the knee, then bolted. Kerrigan screamed. Again and again, she screamed. Stant says he dropped the note as he began to run. The Plexiglas doors he had seen the day before were chained together; without pausing he crashed through the lower part of one of the doors, using his head as a ram, and sprawled onto the sidewalk. Behind him a voice cried out, "Somebody stop him!"
Stant got to his feet and ran. A man got in his way, and Stant knocked him down. He ran toward the post office, flinging the baton in the snow under a parked car. He glanced over his shoulder. People were watching, but no one was giving chase.
As it turned out, he was running directly away from Smith, who had parked about 150 yards from the exit, near some tour buses. Smith watched as Stant bowled the man over and, in the car, caught up with Stant before the end of the block. Stant jumped into the car and tore off his jacket and gloves, then slipped on a brown coat. No one was following them.
Within an hour of the attack, Gillooly says, he was awakened by a telephone call from Harding, and this exchange ensued:
"It happened," Harding said.
"Nancy. They did it."
"You're kidding," Gillooly said.
"No," Harding said.
Gillooly says he told Harding to call him if she learned anything more. Then he called Eckardt.
"It happened," Gillooly said.
"What happened?" Eckardt asked.
Gillooly told him the news. He had to assure Eckardt several times he wasn't kidding.
"It happened!" Eckardt exulted.
Gillooly says he heard a woman's voice in the background say, "What?" Eckardt, Gillooly says, yelled to his mother to start recording the news. Then he told Gillooly he'd better get over there quick with some money.
Gillooly showered and, on the way to Eckardt's, withdrew $3,000 in cash from his account at the First Interstate Bank. When he arrived at the Eckardt house, he says, Shawn and his mother were in the kitchen. The father, Ron, was not around. Eckardt told Gillooly that Derrick had called and said everything was fine. According to Gillooly, Agnes Eckardt said, "You had better get them out of there"—referring to Stant and Smith.
Agnes, Gillooly says, had already made the plane arrangements, booking Stant and Smith back to Phoenix early the next morning under the names Ron Stone and Stan Dixon. The cost of the tickets would be $1,300. On his way to wiring Smith the money, Eckardt, giddy with the success of the mission, treated Gillooly to his version of the day's events, a totally fabricated account in lurid detail. Eckardt related that when Kerrigan came out of the door, Stant, busting through a crowd of a hundred people, had hit her three times on the kneecap and twice on the side of the leg. When she fell, Stant clubbed her in the head. While he was savaging her thus, Eckardt went on, Stant shouted, "I spent 29 hours on a bus for you, bitch," and flung down the note.
When Eckardt and Gillooly returned to the Eckardt house, Gillooly says, Agnes was taping the news. Shawn announced he had changed world history. He became elated as he watched the tape of the stricken Kerrigan, moments after the assault, screaming and pleading, "Why?" He kept asking his mother to play the tape over and over, three and four times. Agnes watched her son's reaction with dismay. "You're sick, Shawn," she said.
That night, Gillooly says, he called Harding. He told her he would have to come to Detroit and that they would have to seem as frightened as everyone else. He instructed her that she should say she was scared and had asked him to come.
Gillooly arrived in Detroit around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, just before the women's free-skating final. Smith and Stant were safely back in Phoenix; Kerrigan had withdrawn from the competition, which Harding would win; and the composite sketches the police had released scarcely resembled Stant. Witnesses could not even decide if the assailant was black or white. According to his statement, Gillooly talked to Harding before she left for the arena and confided that it looked like everything was working out.
And it may have worked out, were it not for that tape recording made surreptitiously by Eckardt on Dec. 28. For Eckardt that tape was proof, real proof, that he wasn't a blow hard. Something he had planned had actually come to pass. World history had been changed. And he didn't seem to care who knew it.
On Friday, Jan. 7, a woman who would not identify herself called Detroit deputy police chief Benny Napoleon, who had appeared several times on television to discuss the Kerrigan assault. She told him about a tape she had listened to in which four men were planning the crime. She provided Napoleon with names. The caller, it turned out, was a friend of Eckardt's father's, a woman named Patti Cook, who says that she blew the whistle on the conspirators because she was appalled at what they had done to Kerrigan.
On Sunday, at about 2:30 p.m., a Detroit police detective, Dennis Richardson, approached Gillooly. They had spoken briefly the night before. During the conversation Richardson was called away several times to make telephone calls. At one point he returned with two men whom he introduced as FBI agents. The conversation turned to security for Harding, and Gillooly told them about Shawn Eckardt and his World Bodyguard Services. Then one of the agents asked, "Who's Derrick?"
Gillooly's heart leaped into his throat. He felt his temples flush hot. "Derrick who?"
"You know. Derrick," said the FBI agent.
Gillooly said if they could come up with a last name, he might be able to help them. He signed a statement for them and left.
That night, Gillooly says, he told Harding about the interview. He told her they had mentioned Derrick. Harding, Gillooly says, asked if they knew something, and Gillooly told her they definitely knew something. He just didn't know how much.
Later that night Gillooly called Eckardt and told him about the FBI interview and about how Derrick's name had been dropped. He asked Eckardt to get in touch with Derrick.
Around 2:30 a.m. Gillooly called Eckardt back from the Westin lobby. Eckardt had not been able to get in touch with Derrick. Gillooly took that to mean that Derrick was already in custody. He told Eckardt to keep trying and went up to Harding's room and went to sleep.
As Gillooly tells it, he woke up in the middle of the night. He had remembered something. There was a Derrick who worked at the ice rink where Harding trained. It gave him an idea, and he reached over to awaken Harding.
"When the FBI asks you who Derrick is, you should say. You mean Derrick at the ice rink?" Gillooly said. "Then I'll say, That's where I heard that name before."
Harding, Gillooly says, agreed to do it.
According to Gillooly, Harding then said in a tentative voice, "We're never going to get out of here, are we?"
Gillooly lay still for a moment, closing his eyes, and sighed before he answered, "It does not look good."
Low technical scores in Japan distressed Harding, leading to a scheme, Gillooly says, to harm Kerrigan.
A critical meeting in Shawn Eckardt's Portland home on Dec. 28 brought (from left) Stant and Smith, who had driven up from Phoenix, together for the only time with fellow plotters Eckardt and Gillooly.
When Kerrigan paused outside the Cobo locker room, Stant made his move, clubbing her right leg.
His escape route blocked, Stant exited headfirst.
Cook, a friend of Ron Eckardt's, tipped off police.
In bed on their last night in Detroit, a grim thought, says Gillooly, dawned on Harding.
Sources And Denials
This story is based on statements made to law-enforcement officials by the four men who have admitted their involvement in the Kerrigan attack—Shawn Eckardt, Jeff Gillooly, Derrick Smith and Shane Stant—plus reporting by SI's Martin Dardis, Michael Jaffe, Lester Munson, Stefanie Scheer, Shelley Smith and Sonja Steptoe.
Gillooly and, to a lesser extent, Eckardt are the sources for the parts of the story that implicate Tonya Harding. One of Harding's lawyers, Robert Weaver, says that Harding will not respond to "piecemeal accusations" that she was involved in the assault. In a Jan. 27 press conference Harding denied having any prior knowledge of the Jan. 6 attack and said she learned only later that people close to her were involved. During a 10½-hour interview with the FBI on Jan. 18, Harding said she became aware only on Jan. 11 of Gillooly's involvement. She also specifically denied to the FBI most of the allegations made by Gillooly and Eckardt.
Last week the U.S. Figure Skating Association concluded that reasonable grounds exist to hold a disciplinary hearing to decide whether Harding violated the association's code of ethics. The U.S. Olympic Committee said it was considering action that could remove her from the U.S. team that will compete in the Lillehammer Games.
Gillooly alone is the source of the suggestions in the story that Agnes Eckardt had a hand in the plot. Her lawyer, Mark Cross, says, "At no point was Agnes Eckardt involved, nor did she knowingly participate in any conspiracy to cause physical harm to Nancy Kerrigan." Shawn Eckardt, who would have been present for all the remarks that Gillooly attributes to Agnes Eckardt, last week told Portland's KATU-TV that his mother had played no role in the scheme.
Tracking the Attack
1. Stant and Smith drive to Portland on Dec. 27.
2. Stant flies to Boston on Dec. 29.
3. Stant goes to Cape Cod on Dec. 31.
4. Stant returns to Boston on Jan. 3 to begin bus trip to Detroit.
5. Stant checks into Super 8 motel in Detroit on Jan. 4.
6. Smith flies to Detroit on Jan. 5.
7. Kerrigan is attacked by Stant on Jan. 6.
8. Stant and Smith fly to Phoenix on Jan. 7.