A Pennsylvania man who notified the Coast Guard that his wife had fallen overboard into Lake Erie last summer — later claiming that she killed herself because she was so distraught over his cheating — has been convicted of murdering her, PEOPLE confirms.
On Friday, a jury found Christopher Leclair, 49, of Erie, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2017 shooting death of his wife, 51-year-old Karen Leclair, court records show.
Christopher 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 with a license and false reports.
He faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, according to the Associated Press. He remains in the Erie County Prison without bond until his sentencing on Dec. 11. (Calls to Christopher’s attorney were not immediately returned on Monday.)
The jury deliberated for just under an hour and a half before reaching a verdict, local TV station WICU reports.
Karen was last seen on June 10, 2017, leaving the marina with her husband aboard their commercial fishing boat, authorities have said. Her body was found three weeks later, on July 4, 2017, in Lake Erie, tied with rope and weighed down with an anchor.
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During his trial, Christopher’s attorney, Bruce Sandmeyer, argued that Karen had killed herself because she was distraught over her husband’s affair and “had had enough,” the Erie Times-News reports.
In her closing argument Friday, however, prosecutor Elizabeth Hirz called the claim of Karen’s suicide “nonsense” and a “desperate lie” that was “completely inconsistent with any of the evidence,” according to the newspaper.
Hirz said that Christopher killed Karen because his “double life … came to a head” when his mistress demanded in June 2017 that he get a divorce.
Tracy Butler, who said she had been in an on-again, off-again relationship with Christopher since 2013 — and that she lived with him for eight months — testified that she had been pressuring Christopher to choose between her and Karen, according to WICU.
Hirz presented jurors with statements that Christopher made in 2004 and 2011 about how he planned to kill Karen by throwing her overboard in one of the deepest parts of Lake Erie, according to the Times-News.
Jurors also heard a recording of a phone conversation in which Christopher asks his father to dispose of a gun, WICU reports.
In prison letters that were read in court, Christopher claimed that he disposed of Karen’s body because he was ashamed of what his behavior had driven her to do and that he “didn’t want anyone to know what she had done,” WICU reports.
He wrote: “I tied her to an anchor, and let her go.”
While a forensic pathology expert who testified for the defense said Karen’ss wounds were consistent with suicide, he conceded under cross-examination that he may have reached a different conclusion had he been the medical examiner in her case, the AP reports.
After the verdict, Dawn Leombruno, Karen Leclair’s niece, told the Times-News that it was upsetting to hear what Christopher had done to her aunt: “She would do anything for anybody, and then to find that he was treating her like this, it’s awful.”
“It doesn’t bring her back,” Leombruno said, “but at least we know she’s getting justice now.”
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