PORTLAND, Ore. – Brian Sean Griffith, a former bodyguard to figure skater Tonya Harding who admitted a role in the attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan during Olympics tryouts, has died. He was 40.
Griffith died Wednesday of what his doctor reported as natural causes, according to the Washington County medical examiner's office. The specific cause of death is expected to be listed when the doctor files a death certificate, which could take two weeks, the medical examiner's office said.
Formerly Shawn Eckardt, Griffith had changed his name since the attack in an attempt to put it behind him.
Griffith, of Beaverton, was Harding's bodyguard when the Portland-born skater competed for a spot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team in 1994.
That January, an assailant clubbed Kerrigan in the knee, forcing her out of the competition. The International Committee of the U.S. Figure Skating Association granted Kerrigan a spot anyway, and she recovered in time to win a silver medal at the Olympics.
Days after the attack, Griffith confessed, detailing a plan that he and Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had hatched. The investigation also eventually netted convictions of Shane Stant, the actual attacker, and Stant's uncle, Derrick Smith, who drove the getaway car.
Griffith was sentenced to 18 months in prison for racketeering but was released four months early, in September 1995.
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.
Family members refused Friday to comment on Griffith's life before or since the infamous attack.
"Shawn Eckardt died a long time ago," his brother, Mike Skinner, told The Oregonian. "There is no other person than Brian Griffith."
Harding has always said she didn't know of the plan. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder an investigation and was banned from U.S. Figure Skating Association competitions.