This article was originally published on September 5, 2017 by Madeleine O’Neill.

A homicide defendant accused in his wife’s death on Lake Erie instructed his father to make a .38-caliber handgun “vanish,” a state police trooper testified Tuesday.

The father, 75-year-old Ernest C. Leclair, of Florida, was held for court on a second-degree misdemeanor count tampering with evidence following his preliminary hearing Tuesday before Springfield Township District Judge Chris MacKendrick.

Trooper Eric Rodgers testified at the hearing that investigators had listened to recorded Erie County Prison phone calls and an in-person conversation from early July between Leclair and his son, Christopher S. Leclair, after Christopher Leclair had been charged with killing his wife, 51-year-old Karen Leclair, while the couple were out on their commercial fishing boat on June 10.

The conversations revealed that Christopher Leclair, who was in prison, had asked his father whether a .38-caliber revolver had appeared on a search inventory prepared by police after they searched the couple’s residence on Route 6N in Elk Creek Township, near Albion, Rodgers testified.

Christopher Leclair, 48, instructed his father to find the handgun stowed above some ceiling tiles in the basement of the residence and to “make it vanish,” Rodgers testified. During an in-person meeting at the Erie County Prison, Ernest Leclair nodded when Christopher Leclair repeatedly asked whether the gun had been located, Rodgers said.

Christopher Leclair knew the in-person conversations were video- and audio-recorded, and told his father not to answer verbally, Rodgers said.

Later, when Ernest Leclair was questioned by police and made aware that the conversations had been recorded, he told investigators he had removed the gun from the ceiling tiles and to a new location beneath drawers under the couples’ bed in the residence, Rodgers said.

“He informed us that he did in fact move the .38 revolver from the ceiling tiles and had moved it to a location in the master bedroom,” Rodgers said.

Investigators located the gun there, he testified.

Under questioning from Ernest Leclair’s lawyer, Gene Placidi, Rodgers said Christopher Leclair had not told his father the gun was used to commit a crime during the conversations. Ernest Leclair also left the gun behind after he was prohibited from entering the Leclairs’ house by a court order, Placidi said.


An Erie County judge in July extended an injunction preventing anyone from accessing the property without court approval, after Karen Leclair’s family raised concerns that Ernest Leclair might be preparing to remove items from the property.

“He was asked to leave the house, he knew he wasn’t going back into the house,” Placidi said after the hearing. “If he wanted to do anything illegal or improper with the gun, he would have taken the gun when he left the house.”

Leclair did not speak during the proceeding, but asked “Am I going to jail?” when the charge was bound over. He is free on 10 percent of $25,000 bond and may return to Florida while he awaits prosecution, Placidi said after the hearing.

Police said that he traveled from Florida to Erie County after his son contacted him from prison and asked him to start liquidating his assets to pay for a lawyer in his homicide case. Christopher Leclair was charged in the case June 13.

Karen Leclair’s body was found by a boater about 6 miles off the coast of Dunkirk, New York, on the late morning of July 4. Her body was identified through dental records, and an autopsy done in Erie County, New York, on July 5 determined the cause of her death was homicide as a result of a gunshot wound to the head, police have said.

Christopher Leclair faces trial after his preliminary hearing Thursday on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, possessing instruments of crime, carrying a firearm without a license and fictitious reports.

He remains at the Erie County Prison without bond.