This article was originally published on GoErie.com by Madeleine O’Neill on July 5, 2017
Authorities are expected to investigate whether the body, which has not been identified, is that of 51-year-old Karen Leclair. She was last seen aboard the Erie-based Doris-M.
DUNKIRK, N.Y. — Pennsylvania State Police and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office are investigating following the discovery of a female body on Lake Erie near Dunkirk.
They are expected to probe whether the body is that of 51-year-old Karen Leclair, an Elk Creek Township woman who is believed to have disappeared into Lake Erie on June 10 but wasn’t reported missing by her husband until a day later.
Boaters reported seeing a female body floating in Lake Erie near Dunkirk Tuesday morning, Pennsylvania State Police said.
The body, which has not yet been identified, was reported to Chautauqua County emergency dispatchers at about 11:45 a.m., according to police.
Chautauqua County Sheriff water rescue personnel retrieved the body. The body was transported to the Dunkirk Marina and was placed in the custody of the Chautauqua County coroner.
Pennsylvania State Police, who have been investigating Leclair’s disappearance, said they will work with the Chautauqua County Coroner’s Office in the coming days to identify the body.
Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri said an autopsy on the body had been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday in Buffalo. Daneri said First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz will attend the autopsy.
Leclair was last seen on her and her husband’s commercial fishing boat, the Doris-M, which is docked in Erie. Her body has never been recovered, and her husband, 48-year-old Christopher S. Leclair, is charged with killing her. He remains in the Erie County Prison.
During a search of the Leclairs’ home in June, state police retrieved items that could hold Karen Leclair’s DNA, such as hairbrushes, to help identify her body if it is recovered.
Investigators also recently probed the discovery of a human leg on the Lake Erie shoreline in Erie on June 22. A person who was fishing found the leg while they were walking along the shoreline west of the Elk Creek Access.
A preliminary forensic examination of the leg determined it had been in the water “for an extended period of time” and did not belong to Karen Leclair, state police said.
In another case of people missing in Lake Erie, investigators in Ohio in January identified the remains of three of the six people killed when a plane crashed into Lake Erie off Cleveland in December. Additional remains in that case, including those of two women, have never been recovered.
Cleveland officials announced in January that they were ending recovery efforts and said it was unlikely additional remains would be found because of conditions in Lake Erie.