A St. Paul man whose girlfriend fell off the back of his motorcycle has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of illicit drugs and alcohol and moving her body to the shoulder of Interstate 35 in Forest Lake before riding away.
Myles W. Eckman, 25, entered his plea Monday in Washington County District Court to criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Ena M. Bhatia, 21, of St. Paul, on Nov. 18, 2016.
Eckman's plea deal calls for 180 days in jail, minus credit for time served while under arrest, a stayed four-year prison sentence and up to 10 years of probation.
The agreement, subject to a judge's approval on April 2, calls for Eckman to perform 180 hours of community service and complete a chemical dependency evaluation.
"My client is very satisfied," said attorney Eric Olson. "Being held accountable for his significant other's death was hard to swallow."
Assistant County Attorney Tom Wedes said Thursday that Bhatia's loved ones were content with the terms of the plea deal because they "wanted to close a painful chapter. ... They believe Eckman cared for [Bhatia]."
Wedes characterized Eckman's actions as "dumb conduct, [but] there wasn't the malice that you see in a typical murder case. ... He panicked."
Eckman and Bhatia were heading north on his Harley-Davidson about 4:40 a.m. when she fell off.
A passing driver told law enforcement officials that he saw the motorcycle off to the side of the road and someone standing over what turned out to be Bhatia's body.
Traffic cameras captured Bhatia falling off the motorcycle. Eckman was seen circling back and then riding away.
That morning, Eckman was found in a pole barn in Columbus after a witness saw him pushing his motorcycle into a pond. At the Forest Lake Police Department, Eckman admitted knowing Bhatia fell off, checking on her and leaving. A witness reported seeing Eckman move Bhatia from the traffic lane and onto the shoulder.
Blood tests revealed marijuana and methamphetamine in Eckman's system, and methamphetamine in Bhatia's. She also had a blood alcohol content of 0.26 percent, indicating severe intoxication. Her injuries included skull fractures and many other broken bones.