How a Handwriting Sample Led to Tonya Harding's Arrest for the Nancy Kerrigan Attack
Nearly every criminal leaves behind one clue — that one piece of evidence that helps authorities solve the case.
For Tonya Harding, that piece of evidence was an envelope. On the envelope: doodles, notes, phone numbers and addresses that convinced authorities that she had planned out the attack on her skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan.
It was just seven weeks before the 1994 Olympic Winter Games when Kerrigan was clubbed on the knee by an assailant who had been hired by Harding and her husband. Known as “the whack heard around the world,” the ensuing scandal thrust both young women into the national spotlight.
At first, authorities were stumped. Who could have carried out the attack on Kerrigan? Authorities suspected Harding, but they had no proof.
And then, there was a break in the case: a worker at Dockside Saloon and Restaurant was emptying the garbage when she came upon several bags of trash that someone had left in her dumpster. When she opened one, she found paperwork with Harding’s name on it. Most importantly, she found an envelope with notes scrawled on the front and the back.
The envelope had the name of Tony Kent Arena — the Massachusetts rink where Kerrigan trained. It also had the address: 8 Gages Way, South Dennis. (It ultimately didn’t work out for the attack to happen in Massachusetts; it happened in Detroit.)
When authorities saw the envelope, they thought they might have solved the case — but they still had to prove that Harding wrote the notes.
Investigators hired Robert Peschka, a handwriting expert who testified that most of the notes on the envelope were written by Harding, while other notes were written by her then-husband, Jeff Gillooly. It was this piece of evidence that cracked the case.
Harding was eventually convicted of hindering the investigation. She received three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $160,000 fine.
Peschka, who has never given an interview on the case, speaks out for the first time on Scandal Made Me Famous, a true-crime show on the Reelz Channel. On the episode, he explains his role in Harding’s conviction, and how he came to his conclusions.
The show also interviews Harding’s former fiancee, Mike Pliska, who testified before the grand jury about her character and relationship with Gillooly.
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Scandal Made Me Famous combines reenactments, exclusive interviews and never-before-seen photos and video to tell the story of infamous crimes. The show is hosted by PEOPLE Senior Writer Steve Helling.
The Tonya Harding episode premieres on Saturday (9 p.m. ET) on the Reelz Channel.