A Pennsylvania man accused of killing his wife before weighing down and disposing of her body in Lake Erie was convicted Friday of first-degree murder.
Christopher Leclair, 48, a former commercial fisherman from Albany, faces a mandatory sentence of life behind bars for the slaying of his wife of nearly 26 years, the Erie Times-News reports.
Erie County prosecutors said Leclair killed his wife, Karen, in June 2017 because he was involved in an extramarital affair—and his girlfriend gave him the ultimatum to choose either her or his wife.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, authorities found discrepancies in Leclair’s account of what happened after he reported Karen missing.
Investigators discovered surveillance video from a port showing that Leclair boarding a boat on the day he said Karen disappeared. However, footage from the day before revealed that he had gotten on the craft with his wife, but returned by himself hours later.
Before her body was found, detectives predicted that Leclair weighted Karen’s body down; a prediction that proved true after Karen’s body was discovered in July 2017. According to the Erie Times-News, authorities concluded that Karen had been shot in the head, tied up, and had an anchor weighing her body down. The remains were found about 50 miles northeast of Erie.
The killer husband’s defense attorney, Bruce Sandmeyer, attempted to argue that Karen had actually killed herself on the grounds of being upset that Leclair had cheated on her, and that the suspect had disposed of her body to conceal what she had done.
“This was a period of time where Karen Leclair had had enough,” Sandmeyer stated in court.
First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz reportedly dismissed the claim as “nonsense” in closing arguments. The story was “another desperate lie by the defendant, which was completely inconsistent with any of the evidence that we had,” Hirz said after the verdict was read.
Karen’s niece, Dawn Leombruno, who described her aunt as someone who “would do anything for anybody,” also spoke after the verdict was read.
“It doesn’t bring her back, but at least we know she’s getting justice now,” said Leombruno, who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Leclair was also convicted of charges that include abuse of a corpse, false reports, and evidence tampering.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 11.
NEW DETAILS: Police say the body of missing Karen Leclair has been found with a gunshot to the head. https://t.co/CMcXppGmaQ
— Crime & Justice (@CrimeJusticeHLN) July 10, 2017
[Feature photo: Christopher Leclair/police handout]