30-year sentence for man who fatally shot girlfriend in her St. Paul home, then said it was suicide

A western Minnesota man received a 30-year term Wednesday for fatally shooting his girlfriend in her apartment in St. Paul's Lowertown neighborhood, then telling police her death was a suicide.

Matthew P. Ecker, 45, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court after jurors convicted him of second-degree intentional murder in connection with the death of Alexandra L. Pennig, 32, on Dec. 16, 2022.

With credit for time in jail since his arrest, Ecker is expected to serve nearly 20 years in prison and the balance on supervised release.

According to the criminal complaint:

Officers responded to the 200 block of E. 5th Street shortly before 3 a.m. after Ecker called saying Pennig had shot herself in the head four minutes earlier. He told police that he and Pennig had been in an open relationship for two years, and he later told investigators they met at a Fergus Falls clinic where they both worked.

Upon arrival at the apartment, officers found Pennig lying in the bathroom, not breathing, with a gunshot wound to her head. Her hand was on Ecker's gun, which was on her chest. Officers noted she had little to no grip on the weapon.

Ecker initially told officers that Pennig grabbed his gun after the two got into an argument and that she secluded herself in the bathroom before he heard a gunshot.

The complaint stated that Ecker then changed his story — first telling police that Pennig pointed the gun at her head in front of him, then that she ran into the bathroom with the gun and closed the door on him.

Ecker was brought to police headquarters and agreed to speak to investigators, the complaint said. Ecker repeated to investigators that Pennig took his gun, held it to her head, then locked herself in the bathroom. He said he heard a "pop," then forced the door open and found Pennig on on the floor with the gun beside her.

He said he placed the gun on Pennig's chest, washed his hands and called 911 from Pennig's phone.