In 1994, Garbage Dumped at a Portland Bar Helped Solve a Notorious FBI Case

You know, the one involving Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan?

Super Bowl Sunday 1994 was not the first or last time Kathy Peterson searched through a stranger's trash in the dumpster behind her restaurant, Dockside Saloon. It was, however, the only time she found garbage that helped solve an FBI case, and placed her in the middle of one of the most notorious scandals in sports history.

Weeks after U.S. Figure Skating champion Nancy Kerrigan's knee was clubbed by a then-unknown attacker, Peterson found bags of someone else's trash thrown in Dockside's dumpster. Peterson's restaurant was closed that day, and back then, its remote Northwest neighborhood was an industrial no man's land. To this day, Peterson has no idea why the bags ended up on her property.

"It could have just been someone saw a window of opportunity and thought, 'Maybe I'll save a couple dollars by not going to the dump,'" says Peterson. "Big mistake."

Peterson found a check stub from the U.S. Figure Skating Association made out to Kerrigan rival Tonya Harding, and an envelope that contained information about the ice rink where Kerrigan practiced and her practice schedule. The discarded papers also included handwriting later revealed to be Harding's. "That was the kicker," says Peterson.

She called the FBI. Harding's handwriting ended up being a key piece of evidence of her involvement in the attack on Kerrigan. It also sucked Dockside and Peterson into a whirlwind of unwanted publicity.

Peterson testified in front of a grand jury and a U.S. Figure Skating panel. Reporters regularly showed up at Dockside with boom mics and cameras, and the bar's phone rang off the hook. When she was out in public, Peterson overheard strangers discussing her involvement in the case. She got hate mail from fans who blamed her for the demise of Harding's figure-skating career.

"I was never out to get anyone, I just found it," says Peterson. "Being in the middle of all that for me was very stressful. I lost like 15 pounds."

Twenty-four years later, the incident has mostly become just an anecdote for Peterson to share with customers. The story is even recounted on the back of Dockside's menu. But even after the success of the hit movie I, Tonya—which does not mention the bar's involvement—Peterson says she has no interest in turning her restaurant into a Tonya Harding-themed tourist trap.

"We have a clubhouse sandwich on our menu. [Customers ask], 'Is that the Tonya Harding sandwich?'" she says. "I couldn't do that. I have some self-respect."

See Related: Tonya Harding Moved Away From Oregon, Maybe Because People Threw Rats In Her Mailbox.

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