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ERIE, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man convicted of fatally shooting his wife, tying her body to an anchor and tossing it into Lake Erie, then trying to cover up the crime by claiming she had apparently fallen overboard, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A judge Tuesday imposed the mandatory sentence on 49-year-old Christopher Leclair and added up to 17 years for charges including abuse of a corpse, evidence-tampering and false reports, the Erie Times-News reported.
“There was almost a recognizable gasp in this community when this crime was committed,” Erie County President Judge John Trucilla said. “The depravity and depths that you went to calculate this murder are unlike any this court has ever seen.”
Prosecutors said the Albion resident was having an affair and killed his 51-year-old wife, Karen Leclair, in the summer of 2017 because his girlfriend had given him an ultimatum to choose between her and his wife.
Dock surveillance video showed the two heading out on their commercial fishing boat on June 10 and him returning alone. He went out on the vessel by himself the next day, putting out a distress call saying his wife had apparently fallen overboard.
Her body was found in July a few miles from Dunkirk, New York, which is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Erie. Authorities said she had been shot in the head, tied up and an anchor attached to her body.
Defense attorney Bruce Sandmeyer, who argued at trial that Karen Leclair killed herself because she was upset that her husband had been cheating on her, told the judge Tuesday that his client “continues to assert his innocence.”
The defense conceded that Leclair tied his wife’s body to the anchor and dropped her into the lake, but Sandmeyer said that his client dumped the body because he didn’t want anyone to know that his actions had caused his wife to take her own life.
Authorities, however, presented testimony that Leclair had also told acquaintances of a plan to kill his wife and drop her body into Lake Erie on several occasions before his wife disappeared. The judge ordered him to pay $705,974 in restitution to the Coast Guard for the search.
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