*Summary: Dude found guilty of child sex assault and drinks from a water bottle in the court room and dies shortly thereafter.
Jurors had been dismissed from the courtroom before the bailiff found Leclair. They returned Friday morning to determine the next move since Leclair, who had been found guilty, had died before he could be sentenced for his crimes.
“I can certainly say that it was highly emotional for everyone involved,” Howard said. “We were shocked by this. It does carry a lot of emotion and even more so for the jurors. They didn’t choose to do this. They were chosen, and as we told them, serving on a jury and making sure that the justice system works for the alleged victim and accused person is the cornerstone of being a citizen and making sure our government and society function.”
It was an unusual situation, not just for the jurors but also for the defense, the prosecution and the judge, none of whom had ever experienced something like this before.
Normally, Howard said, if a defendant once convicted escapes before he is sentenced — also known as “volunteering absence” — the law would allow the prosecution to move forward with sentencing. In this case, Leclair might have killed himself if the water bottle, which the Denton County District Attorney’s Office said was collected as evidence, contains a toxic substance that led to his death.
So the question is: If Leclair killed himself, does his action qualify as a “volunteering absence” since, in a sense, he escaped justice — unless you believe in Dante’s version of the afterlife.
“This is something that obviously doesn’t happen very often,” Howard said. “The judge in her 30 years and probably between us (prosecution, too) 100-plus years, [we] have never come across anything like this. The question is whether the legal thing to do is … declare a mistrial and have [the charges] dismissed, or is there another possible way to proceed?”
Leclair’s initial criminal offense took place in July 2016. His victim had posted an ad under the personal section on Craigslist, according to the July 19, 2018, search warrant affidavit. Leclair, a corporate recruiter, replied to the ad, met with the victim and drove to a hotel where they had sex. He gave her $200, and she sent him a nude photograph via email.
After their initial encounter, the victim told Leclair she was 14. Leclair continued to communicate with her for sex. According to the search warrant, they had three additional sexual encounters between them, one of which occurred at Leclair’s residence in Frisco.
Two years later, in May 2019, Leclair’s girlfriend, Melody “Mel” Shae, discovered Leclair’s communication with the victim. She met with the victim — the victim said Shae had threatened her — and told her Leclair was, according to the search warrant affidavit, “grooming her.” The affidavit also said “Mel was going to help [her]” and made a claim about Shae that the victim later recanted, Shae’s attorney Case Cagle pointed out in a Saturday evening email to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Shae then drove the victim back to Leclair’s house, where Shae also lived, and an argument between Shae and Leclair ensued. Leclair took the victim back to where she had originally met Shae, and both Shae and Leclair kept in contact with the victim until Frisco police got involved a month later, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Cagle said the victim’s testimony in open court about events related to Shae differed from what she had initially told investigators.
“The complaining witness testified in court that the only reason the police were notified was due to Ms. Shae informing the complaining witness’s parents about the illicit relationship Mr. Leclair had with the complaining witness,” Cagle said.
On June 29, 2018, the charges, according to Frisco police, were filed when the mother of the victim called police to report that her 16-year-old daughter had been assaulted.
About a month later, Frisco police arrested Leclair at 10 a.m. on July 26, 2018. He was transported to Denton County, and his bond was set at $30,000 on a charge of attempt to commit sexual assaults. Shae also was arrested in July 2018 on failure to report a felony, according to Frisco police.
Shae’s charge was dropped in July 2020, according to a July 17, 2020, Decline Notification from the Denton County District Attorney’s Office.
“Ms. Shae is going through a lot of mixed feelings of mourning and guilt right now,” Cagle said.
Leclair bonded out and spent the next four years free as the investigation and the court case unfolded. According to the search warrant affidavit, police were able to confirm via cellphone extraction that multiple text messages occurred between Shae and the victim and between the victim and Leclair to set up arrangements.
In February 2020, Leclair was indicted by a Denton County grand jury on five counts of child sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty.
The jury trial initially was scheduled for early May and then reset by the court. Jury selection began Monday. The trial lasted a few days before the guilty verdict was read. Prosecution had flown the victim in to testify.
Howard said he had noticed Leclair sipping from the water bottle throughout the trial, and when the guilty verdict was read, he saw his client steadying himself and taking a prolonged drink of the bottle before he was taken into the holding room.
The jury was dismissed so the court could determine when sentencing would take place. Howard said he spoke with Leclair, who seemed fine, and then left to speak with their witnesses.
A county investigator assigned to the courtroom had noticed Leclair chugging the water bottle, which First Assistant Attorney Jamie Beck said she hadn’t noticed him doing prior, and sent the bailiff to check on him. The bailiff then found that Leclair had collapsed, according to a Denton County Sheriff’s Office news release issued Friday.
Denton Fire Department was dispatched after receiving a call at 2:39 p.m. for an unconscious male at the Denton County courthouse, Denton Battalion Chief David Boots wrote in a Friday morning email to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
“They found the patient unconscious but breathing, in custody and evaluated him at the scene,” Boots said. “He was then transported to a local hospital in critical condition where he later died.”
In the Friday news release, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office pointed out that Leclair had been taken to Medical City Denton.
On Friday morning, Howard said he and the prosecutor spoke with the judge about how best to handle disclosing Leclair’s death to the jury.
“Everyone was concerned with jurors feeling guilty or responsible in some way, even though that is not the case,” Howard said.
They brought the jury back into the courtroom and explained what had happened to Leclair. Howard said they notified the jurors that they could stick around and talk with the lawyers about what had happened.
“Everyone expressed how thankful they were for their services and stressed that it was not their fault and not their responsibility,” Howard said.
As for what happens next, Howard said they were all going to research the law and determine the best way to move forward. The judge, he said, hasn’t set a date for when they need to return with what they’ve learned.
Howard said his gut reaction is the judge will declare it a mistrial and dismiss the case.
“To a legal extent, it does prevent ultimate justice being done for all sides,” Howard said. “The alleged victim and Ed’s family won’t get to the ultimate conclusion.”
I don't know if I missed something but the girl "had posted an ad under the personal section on Craigslist, according to the July 19, 2018, search warrant affidavit. Leclair, a corporate recruiter, replied to the ad, met with the victim and drove to a hotel where they had sex. He gave her $200, and she sent him a nude photograph via email.". That's how this started but it got complicated after that. They were also careful to say he gave her money; it could be she asked for it but that doesn't help the case to say she was hooking. My "first" girlfriend was 14. I was 17 but she was wayyyy ahead of me, though not advertizing on Craigslist. This "victim", who never claimed to be one actually, even hooked up with him a few more times. Everyone said she was assaulted etc but those are their words, not hers', until it came down to who was getting arrested for this. My point is, based on my own experience, a 14 year old, especially today, is not necessarily as pure as the driven snow. I'm not saying he is either, obviously not, but it's possible he was just a horny guy. I thought I was in love but was gutted emotionally by my 14 yr old and that was 50 years ago. Teens today are much more advanced and way more crafty and ruthless. And if anything is responsible for that its been society in general; the "grooming" term sounds like a convenient buzz word to inflame the jury. They didn't say what for or how. My girlfriend and I broke up by the time I was 18 too, so don't anyone start in on me legally speaking or otherwise, and it was only because she wanted more action. Also, this guy could have been poisoned/murdered by anyone who had access to that water bottle wherever he got it from; no one knows or said where that was. Based on the reaction I'm reading, no one even cares if that's possible. And just being dehydrated and thirsty doesn't prove anything other than he was under extreme stress. Look it up. I'm only saying what isn't being said here, because these things are usually so one-sided and extreme - an exception being Senator Matt Gaetz who still is one, by the way.
Sounds like suicide, but let's see the toxicology report. Either way good riddance.
Bu-bye, disgusting pedophile....I am thrilled my tax dollars do not have to support you
Something similar happened yesterday in Tallahassee, FL.
Police were attempting to serve an arrest warrant for a man accused of sex crimes against children. He barricaded himself in a home, for hours. Finally killing himself before he could be taken by law enforcement.
I'm really okay with these assholes killing themselves.
So he killed himself, because of his guilt for the sex crimes.
I don't see any new details. The guys still dead and there seems to be a complete lack of detail regarding the method.
@AlbertSchepis It was in the story, as well as having been reported on the local news here.
There was a cloudy substance in the bottle he drank from. I've not heard what that substance was determined to have been.
Well when it said new details are discovered, it was very confusing because I did not know what the original report included. Evidently the original report did not talk about his liquid consumption.
IMHO it is preferential to the expense of a trial.