ERIE COUNTY, Pa. (CBS News and the Associated Press) – A body found along the New York shoreline of Lake Erie with a gunshot wound to the head and an anchor attached to the torso was identified on Wednesday as that of a Pennsylvania woman whose husband reported her missing and then was charged with killing her.
Karen Leclair’s body had been bound with nylon fishing rope, the type used to secure anchors, and an anchor was tied to the upper torso, said Lt. Wayne Kline, of the Pennsylvania state police. The body was found in the lake by a fisherman on Tuesday a few miles from Dunkirk, New York, which is about 50 miles northeast of Erie, Pennsylvania, along the lake’s southern shoreline.
Leclair’s husband, Christopher LeClair, had told authorities he and his wife were on a trip Sunday, June 11, on his 52-foot craft, the Doris-M, when she got a queasy stomach and decided to sit on a bucket perched on the side. He said when he glanced over to check on her 15 minutes later, she was gone, having apparently fallen overboard. He then contacted the Coast Guard.
Two days later, a review of surveillance video from the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority led state police to arrest Leclair. The video showed he got on the boat alone that Sunday at a dock in Erie, Pennsylvania. The same dock cameras, however, showed Leclair getting on the boat with his wife the day before – and returning hours later without her.
The Coast Guard spent more than $600,000 on a 30-hour search that covered about 1,400 square miles. They officially declared Leclair’s 51-year-old wife dead.
Leclair’s attorney, Bruce Sandmeyer, said his client “is continuing to assert his innocence.” He wouldn’t address the discrepancy between Leclair’s account of her disappearance and the dock video.
Christopher Leclair acknowledged he’s been having an affair with a 44-year-old woman from the couple’s hometown of Albion, Pennsylvania, for several months. That woman, on probation for illegally possessing prescription painkillers last year, told police that Leclair spent the night with her June 10 into 11. That contradicted Leclair’s statement that the last time he saw and had sex with the woman was Friday night, June 9, and that he spent the next night with his wife before their ill-fated voyage June 11, the affidavits said.
Leclair’s girlfriend also told police he mentioned a $30,000 life insurance policy on his wife when Leclair had pizza with the woman and her children at a restaurant about two months ago. On the morning of June 11, Leclair spoke to his girlfriend about moving into his house before he left for his boat that day, she told police.
Leclair faces a preliminary hearing July 31 at which prosecutors must show they have enough evidence for the case to go to trial.