A Texas man died on Thursday shortly after drinking a mystery liquid as he was being convicted of child sexual abuse, officials say.
Edward Leclair, 57, was on trial in Denton, Texas, for five counts of sexual abuse involving one underage victim. He had been free on bond until the verdict on Thursday.
“As these verdicts were being read, he chugged a bottle of water he had at counsel table,” Denton County Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck told CNN.
“Our investigator noticed him chug the water,” Beck said. “He told the bailiff he might want to go check on him. The bailiff did. He was unconscious in the holding cell.”
The district attorney noted that the water appeared “cloudy.”
Mike Howard – Leclair’s defense attorney – said Leclair had taken a “long drink from a water bottle” while listening to the verdict. He wasn’t sure what was in his client’s bottle.
“Shortly after entering the holdover cell, he started vomiting, and emergency services were called,” Howard stated.
Beck said a “medical intervention” happened at the courthouse. Medics unsuccessfully attempted to revive Leclair. The convicted pedophile was pronounced dead at the Medical City Denton hospital at 3:21 p.m., according to preliminary records from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.
An autopsy has been ordered, and the cause of death is listed as pending. The Texas Rangers are investigating Leclair’s death.
“I can certainly say that it was highly emotional for everyone involved,” Howard told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “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.”
Howard pondered how the court would proceed.
“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?”
According to a search warrant affidavit, Leclair responded to a personal ad on Craigslist in July 2016. He allegedly met a girl at a hotel for sex, and Leclair reportedly paid her $200. She is said to have sent him a nude photo via email.
“After their initial encounter, the victim told Leclair she was 14. Leclair continued to communicate with her for sex,” the Denton Record-Chronicle reported. “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, Leclair’s girlfriend, Melody “Mel” Shae, discovered the communication with the victim. She met the victim and told her that Leclar was “grooming her,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also stated, “Mel was going to ‘help [her].’ Mel told her she could help the child make a lot more money, but she needed to go through Mel only.”
Leclair was hit with child sexual assault charges on June 28, 2018, after the victim’s mother informed police that her daughter had been sexually assaulted.