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Child Sex Offender Who Killed Himself During Verdict Used Sodium Nitrite

Edward Leclair listened to a jury find him guilty of five counts of sexual assault against a child in August while chugging a cloudy water bottle. He collapsed in a holding cell outside the courtroom and died.

By Megan Carpentier
Disturbing Child Sexual Predator Cases

A man who mysteriously died just after a jury found him guilty of multiple child sex offenses killed himself with sodium nitrite, a coroner has ruled.

Edward Leclair, 57, had just listened to a jury find him guilty of five counts of child sexual assault on Aug. 11 when, according to lawyers in the courtroom, he studiously downed a visibly cloudy water bottle.

"He had a bottle of water with him at the counsel table, and he chugged it,” First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Jamie Beck told ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA at the time. “It wasn’t like he was just taking sips of water. He was literally throwing it back, so to speak."

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Leclair's defense counsel, Mike Howard, said he saw his client take a “long drink from a water bottle," according to the New York Post, before the jury was dismissed and he was taken back to a holding cell.

A police handout of Edward LeClair

“Had he waited another 30 seconds, he would have been in sheriff’s custody and not had access to that bottled water,” Howard told the New York Times. “He wouldn’t have been able to. So, you know, I think he knew.”

A county investigator had noticed Leclair downing the water bottle, which was unusual behavior for him, and sent a bailiff to check on him, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle at the time. He had already collapsed in his cell.

First responders were called in at 2:39 p.m., the paper said.

“They found the patient unconscious but breathing, in custody and evaluated him at the scene,” Denton Fire Department Battalion Chief David Boots told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “He was then transported to a local hospital in critical condition where he later died.”

"I saw him being taken out on the gurney,” Leclair's lawyer told the Record-Chronicle. “His color and pallor didn’t look good. "

“He was very much dying or dead,” Beck told the paper. “He was gray.”

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner has since officially ruled that Leclair died by suicide as a result of the toxic effects of sodium nitrite, the Daily Mail reported.

Sodium nitrite is a common food additive that has been increasing used by people intent on dying by suicide in both the U.S. and Canada, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reports. Ingesting it quickly inhibits the ability of the body's red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissue. Symptoms prior to death may include a high heart rate, blue-purple skin (which can appear grey), headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of consciousness, according to the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians. The only known treatment is an intravenous dose of methylene blue, which requires a prompt identification that the cause of the symptoms is sodium nitrite.

Leclair's lawyers had not known of his plans.

Though the details of Leclair's conviction were not immediately made public at the time of his death, records obtained by the Record-Chronicle indicate that he was indicted in February 2020 on five counts of child sexual assault dating back to July 2016.

That's when Leclair answered a Craigslist ad and met a person for a sexual encounter and a nude photograph for which he paid $200. The person later disclosed that she was 14 years old, according to court records. Leclair, however, paid the teen for sex three more times, including once at his home.

The age of sexual consent in Texas is 17. Leclair would have been 51 at the time of their first contact.

In 2018, Leclair's girlfriend Melody Shae discovered his communication with the victim and contacted her, demanding the two meet. She brought the teen back to Leclair's house where the two adults had a fight, and Leclair drove the teen back to where she'd met his girlfriend.

Shae eventually told the teen's parents about what had occurred between her and Leclair, and the girl's parents filed a police report on June 29, 2018. LeClair was arrested for two attempted sexual assaults on July 26, 2018 and posted a $30,000. 

After reviewing text messages between the girl and Leclair, as well as Shae and Leclair, he was indicted on five counts of child sexual assault in 2020. He had faced up to 100 years in prison.

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