Bodyguard Eckardt less than the sum of his resume

January 18, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It is a resume that even James Bond would envy.

Counter-terrorist specialist. Executive security consultant. Certified parachutist. College lecturer.

L And "extremely adaptable in a rapidly changing environment."

But the life beefy bodyguard Shawn Eric Eckardt portrayed in a resume filled with misspellings and apparent misstatements is vastly different from the facts.

He is a 26-year-old, 300-pound college student who works out of his parent's home and drives a 1976 Mercury with a missing hubcap.

And now, the man who provided security for Tonya Harding when she returned home in triumph from the U.S. figure skating championships has emerged as a key player in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

Eckardt, one of three men arrested on second-degree felony charges last week, has confessed his role to authorities.

But did he plot the Jan. 6 assault at the national championships in Detroit on his own? Or was he following the orders of others?

The questions are being debated by lawyers and law-enforcement officials as the investigation continues.

Neither Harding nor her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, has been charged in the case. But both reportedly have been implicated by confessions made by Eckardt and Shane Stant, the alleged hit man.

And NBC News reported last night that Gillooly will be arrested today.

But it is Eckardt who looms as a pivotal figure in the investigation.

He was the man who allegedly taped the conversation in which the plan to attack Kerrigan was hatched.

And it was Eckardt's apparent remorse for the assault that led him to play a tape of the conversation for a local minister.

That set in motion the events that led to his arrest.

It also dredged up a cast of characters far removed from the world of skating. Arrested for their roles in the attack were Derrick Smith and Stant, two men who liked to set booby-traps and play war together on property they shared in Corbett, Ore.

And there were tales of Eckardt trying to entice a fellow student, Russell "Rusty" Rietz, to "kill someone" in Detroit for $65,000.

Near the center of the story is Eckardt, a man who portrays himself a security expert.

"Eckardt is a very intelligent idiot," said Jerry Spires, a private investigator who was one of Eckardt's instructors at Pioneer Pacific College in nearby Wilsonville.

"He gets A's in class," Spires said. "He can talk the talk. But . . ."

Could Eckardt have initiated the attack?

To his attorney, Eckardt "wasn't smart enough" to plot the clubbing of Kerrigan.

"He has been portrayed as a mastermind to a hit man plot, as a monstrous chap who would go out and cause physical injury to a young Miss Kerrigan," Mark McKnight said.

"But the Shawn I know is someone, who, following his activities, immediately began to lay awake at night crying."

But to the attorney representing Gillooly, Eckardt is a man who "led a fantasy life," and performed only one job as a bodyguard to Harding.

"Unfortunately, he tried to turn fantasy into fact by masterminding this stupid attack," Ron Hoevet said.

Hoevet added that Eckardt was paid $3,500 by the Harding camp to provide security as the skater arrived at Portland International Airport, and accompany her on a planned trip to last week's pre-Olympic skating exhibition in Fairfax, Va.

"He is not her bodyguard," Hoevet said.

But circulating through Portland under Gillooly's letterhead is an undated letter of recommendation for Eckardt.

"I have every intention of utilizing his expertise in the future and cannot think of any individual that could surpass Mr. Eckardt's capabilities," Gillooly purportedly wrote.

It could not be confirmed if Gillooly wrote the letter, however.

But the two men have known each other since attending grade school together.

That Eckardt inflated his credentials is undeniable.

He claims to have worked for the Blackstone Corp. as a contract operations specialist in Switzerland from 1984 to 1987.

Not bad for someone who would have been 16 years old at the time of his hiring. And there is no listing of a Blackstone Corp. in Switzerland.

Also, Eckardt includes with his resume a letter of recommendation from Blackstone Corp. and uses as a reference a Mr. W. J. Walther, the company's purported Oregon-based representative.

"That's news to me," said Joe Walther, the man who answered the phone listed in the letter.

"I'm just a simple buyer," he said. "I know Eric. We've played chess together."

Eckardt also highlights his training at Executive Security International, an Aspen., Colo.-based correspondence school for bodyguards.

He was enrolled in the program for three years before being booted out in 1992.

"Eckardt just couldn't keep up with the training, and we terminated him," said Tom Duggan, the school's training manager.

"He seemed like a nice guy, and I'm sure he meant well," Duggan added. "But he kind of wanted to make more of himself then he was."

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