PITTSBURGH—James Ecker, a prominent defense attorney who stoically accompanied some of the Pittsburgh area's most celebrated criminal defendants for decades, has died.

The Allegheny County medical examiner's office says Ecker was 84 when he died in his sleep of natural causes before his body was found about 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Ecker cut a distinguished figure with his white hair and dapper dress.

Among others, he represented John Vojtas, a Brentwood police officer acquitted in the death of Jonny Gammage, a black motorist and cousin of then-Pittsburgh Steelers player Ray Seals, who died during a 1995 traffic stop. Ecker also represented Thomas Hose, a former school security guard serving five to 15 years in prison for keeping a female student captive for a decade.

Law partner Brent McCune says Ecker "was the ringmaster" in many high-profile cases.