This article was published on goerie.com by Tim Hahn on Feb 16, 2018
An Erie County judge has upheld the county’s jurisdiction in the homicide case against an Elk Creek Township man accused of killing his wife on Lake Erie and denied a request to change the venue of the upcoming trial or to bring in an out-of-town jury.
Erie County President Judge John J. Trucilla made his rulings Friday morning on motions filed in January by lawyer Bruce Sandmeyer, who is representing 48-year-old Christopher S. Leclair in the case. Sandmeyer had asked that the case be dismissed because police and prosecutors haven’t established where 51-year-old Karen Leclair’s death occurred, and he argued that heavy news media coverage hurts Leclair’s chances of a fair trial in Northwest Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania State Police accuse Leclair of killing Karen Leclair while the two were on Lake Erie aboard their commercial fishing vessel, the Doris-M, on June 10. Investigators charge that he returned to the lake alone on the afternoon of June 11 and radioed a distress call to the U.S. Coast Guard, reporting that his wife had just fallen off the boat.
Karen Leclair’s body was recovered about 6 miles off the coast of Dunkirk, New York, on July 4. Investigators said ropes and an anchor were tied to her body, and an autopsy done on July 5 determined that she had died of a gunshot wound to her head.
Leclair is scheduled for trial in early April on charges including homicide, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse.
Prosecutors presented testimony from a state police investigator and a Coast Guard official to argue that evidence shows the Doris-M could not have crossed into Canadian waters or into New York during the times the boat was known to have been on Lake Erie on June 10, despite a 90-minute period when U.S. Border Patrol radar could not chart the vessel’s location. Prosecutors also argued that news media coverage had not risen to the level where it would be difficult to pick a fair and impartial jury in Erie County, citing other recent high-profile cases that were prosecuted in the county.