Man who reported St. Paul woman’s death as suicide found guilty of murder

A Fergus Falls man was found guilty of murder after he reported his girlfriend shot herself back in December 2022.

Matthew Phillip Ecker, 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder during a jury trial on Friday for the death of 32-year-old Alexandra Pennig of St. Paul.

St. Paul police responded to an apartment near the intersection of Fifth and Wall Streets just before 3 a.m. on Dec. 16 after Ecker called 911 to report that Pennig shot herself.

Officers found Pennig’s body in a bathroom with a gun on her chest and her left hand on top of the gun.

Investigators then noticed that the blood in the bathroom was already dry and that the bathroom door had split near the lock, according to the criminal complaint. Ecker reportedly claimed that he called 911 four minutes after she shot herself.

During an interview, Ecker said that he had been in an open relationship with Pennig for the past two years and that she called him because her other boyfriend abused her and she was scared. Ecker then said they went to a few bars earlier in the night before returning to her apartment. He said she then grabbed a gun from his backpack, ran into the bathroom and shot herself.

Court documents show that Ecker then started changing his story about what Pennig did when she grabbed the gun. Ecker said she held the gun with her left hand even though she was right-handed, which was later confirmed by her family.

Investigators then watched surveillance footage that showed Ecker and Pennig return to the apartment just after 2 a.m., leaving about 20 minutes later and then returning just a few minutes after that. The complaint states that officers saw that both appeared frustrated.

Ecker then said both he and Pennig saw one of her other boyfriends at one of the bars and that they got into a fight after returning to the apartment, then went on a walk to cool down. According to the complaint, Ecker then told police they were happy when they returned to the apartment and never got into an argument.

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The criminal complaint also says that even though Ecker works at a clinic in the emergency room, he said he didn’t know how to help Pennig and claimed that he moved the gun after the shooting, washed his hands and didn’t remember putting Pennig’s hand on top of the gun. Ecker also told police he was scared of getting in trouble because it was his gun.

When investigators looked at Ecker’s phone, they found that he had been prescribing Pennig drugs, including Adderall and Diazepam. Court documents say that Ecker was also helping pay Pennig’s rent, even though he is married with four children.

His sentencing date has not yet been set. He faces up to 40 years in prison.