Man shoots wife in the head and dumps her in lake after girlfriend tells him to choose between them
49-year-old Christopher Leclair was found guilty of first-degree murder as well as a number of other charges over the shooting death of wife Karen Leclair in 2017.
A Pennsylvania man who had previously claimed that his wife had killed herself by jumping overboard into Lake Eerie from their commercial fishing boat has been found guilty of murder. A jury found 49-year-old Christopher Leclair guilty of first-degree murder in the 2017 shooting death of his wife, 51-year-old Karen Leclair, and he now faces a lifetime behind bars without the possibility of parole.
People reported that Leclair was also found guilty of aggravated assault, tampering with physical evidence, abuse of a corpse, possession of an instrument of crime, firearms not to be carried without a license, and false reports with the jury deliberating for just under an hour and a half to come to their verdict.
According to authorities, Karen was last seen on her husband's fishing boat on June 10, 2017. Her body was found three weeks later on July 4, 2017, in Lake Erie and autopsy results showed she had died from a single gunshot wound to the head. She was found tied with rope and weighed down with an anchor, with defense lawyer Bruce Sandmeyer arguing that she had killed herself because she had become distraught over her husband's long-running affair with Tracy Butler.
The first of those arguments was backed up by the testimony of a forensic pathology expert who said that Karen's wounds were consistent with suicide. Butler's testimony similarly seemed to indicate that there was some tension in the air. She told the court that she had been in an on-again, off-again relationship with Leclair since 2013, that she had lived with him for eight months, and that she had been pressuring him to pick between her and Karen.
However, prosecutor Elizabeth Hirz refuted these arguments in her closing arguments, terming the defense's claim that Karen killed herself as "nonsense" and a "desperate lie" that was "completely inconsistent with any of the evidence."
Indeed, as the forensic pathologist conceded under cross-examination that he may have reached a different conclusion if he had been the medical examiner in the case, undermining one of the defense's major arguments. Hirz also presented jurors with statements that Leclair made in 2004 and 2011 about how he wanted to kill his wife by throwing her overboard into one of the deepest parts of Lake Erie.
Further evidence was provided in the form of a recorded phone conversation where Leclair asked his father to dispose of a gun. The father, 74-year-old Ernest Leclair, was arrested last year and charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.
Letters the 49-year-old had written in prison in which he alludes to disposing of his wife's body because he was ashamed of what his behavior had driven her to do were presented as well. In the letters, he reportedly had written, "I tied her to an anchor and let her go."
Leclair is currently being in the Erie County Prison without bail and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 11.