What Did Tonya Know?

The skater's bodyguard tells tales to implicate her. So far, none have been substantiated.

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 3)

Suspicions about Harding's role surround a failed plan that predated the Jan. 6 attack in Detroit. Three of the arrested men -- Eckardt; hit man Shane Stant, 22; and getaway driver Derrick Smith, 29 -- have told investigators that during the final days of 1993, they conspired with Gillooly to attack Kerrigan while she trained at the Tony Kent Arena on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. An 11-page affidavit, prepared by the Multnomah County sheriff's office in Oregon and made public last week, states that Eckardt initially claimed that Harding did not know about the plot. But under two days of FBI interrogation, - the affidavit says, Eckardt recalled Gillooly's telling him that Harding had assisted in setting up the attack by placing two phone calls from her Oregon home to the Tony Kent Arena to determine Kerrigan's practice schedule. Gillooly, said Eckardt, also spoke of Harding's constructing an alibi for the calls. At no point in the affidavit does Eckardt mention ever discussing the plan directly with Harding. But the same day that the affidavit was released, Eckardt, no longer under oath, offered the Portland Oregonian a story far more damaging to Harding. As Stant stalked Kerrigan on the Cape, Eckardt said he was summoned by Gillooly to the Portland skating rink where Harding trains. Eckardt claimed that Harding skated up to him and said she was "pissed off and disappointed that these guys weren't able to do what they said they were gonna do. And why hasn't it happened yet?" He also said that when the attack site shifted to Detroit, where both Kerrigan and Harding were scheduled to compete, Harding identified Kerrigan's hotel for the four men.

Until these allegations hit the newsstand, Harding bore up in public with surprising composure. On Tuesday she withstood more than 10 hours of FBI questioning. After the eighth hour, she issued a statement announcing that she was separating from Gillooly -- their third breakup in four tempestuous years. When she emerged from the interrogation at 11:25 p.m., she paused to answer reporters' questions. Asked if she had a message for her fans, she replied, "Please believe in me." Did she still believe in Gillooly? "Definitely," she answered firmly.

But after the publication of the Oregonian interview with Eckardt, Harding's patience cracked. Asked about the charges, she brushed past reporters, snapping, "I haven't spoke with anyone, O.K.?" When the questions continued, she shouted, "I'm not answering your questions, I said." A few hours later she smiled sweetly into the camera for ABC's Prime Time Live and said, "I believe God is watching over me. Maybe he believes it's time for something good to happen to me."

Beyond Eckardt's ever changing accounts, the allegations that dog Harding emanate largely from rumor and anonymously sourced press reports. The only evidence in the affidavit that may begin to implicate Harding is a phone record of four calls placed between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3 from the cabin she shares with Gillooly to the Tony Kent Arena. The calls, however, could have been made by Gillooly -- or even by Eckardt himself.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3