Defense: Man didn't kill wife but dumped body after suicide

ERIE, Pa. (WPVI) -- The attorney representing a man accused of killing his wife and tossing her body into Lake Erie is arguing that she killed herself because she was upset that her husband had been having an affair.

Defense attorney Bruce Sandmeyer argued Tuesday that 49-year-old Christopher Leclair was "overwhelmed" and "simply did not want people to know" that his wife had taken her own life, the Erie Times-News reported.

Sandmeyer conceded that Leclair was cheating on 51-year-old Karen Leclair in the months before she died in the summer of 2017, and he also acknowledged that his client bound her body with rope and dropped it into the lake from their commercial fishing boat. But he says a forensic pathologist will testify that the gunshot wound is consistent with a self-inflicted wound.

"Evidence will show that Christopher Leclair was overwhelmed by what had occurred," Sandmeyer said. He "did not know what to do and just reacted ... he simply did not want people to know that Karen had taken her life."

Assistant District Attorney Paul Sellers, however, said Leclair's girlfriend had given him an ultimatum to choose between his girlfriend and his wife.

"On that weekend, Christopher Leclair was forced to choose between the competing paths of his double life," Sellers said.

Sellers said Leclair had told people that his wife had terminal cancer and did not have much time left to live. "Mr. Leclair will lie about anything to anyone at any time to get what he wants," Sellers said.

Prosecutors said Leclair reported his wife missing in June 2017, but dock surveillance images showed the two leaving and him returning alone, and he went out on the lake the next day and put out a distress call saying she had apparently fallen overboard. She was found in July a few miles from Dunkirk, New York, which is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Erie. Authorities say she had been shot in the head, was tied up and had an anchor attached to her body.

Prosecutors are seeking a first-degree murder conviction as well as aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, evidence tampering and false reports convictions.
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