The commercial fishing boat Doris M. left a dock in Erie, Pennsylvania, last weekend with owners Christopher and Karen Leclair at the helm.
The 52-foot vessel returned with only one of them aboard. The other was swallowed by Lake Erie’s choppy waters.
Christopher Leclair, 48, told police his wife fell overboard in a tragic accident. Investigators say it was no accident.
Leclair, 48, killed his 51-year-old wife and staged her death, possibly because of an affair with another woman, police said. He’s jailed without bail on a charge of first-degree criminal homicide.
Leclair told investigators that on June 4, he and his wife took their boat out to check fishing nets. While on the lake, Karen Leclair, who wasn’t wearing a life vest, became ill and sat on a bucket next to the boat railing. He said he “looked away and looked back approximately 15 minutes later and observed Karen Leclair to be missing,” according to a police affidavit obtained by The Meadville Tribune.
The U.S. Coast Guard learned of the disappearance in a distress call Christopher Leclair placed Sunday afternoon. Federal, state and local authorities, assisted by the Canadian armed forces, covered 1,400 square miles during a two-day search, The Erie Daily Times reported. Karen Leclair’s body was never found.
Investigators said Christopher Leclair’s story raised suspicions. Additional evidence points to a darker version of what happened.
According to the criminal complaint, video captured by surveillance cameras near where the Doris M. was moored shows the Leclairs leaving the dock together on Saturday afternoon ― a full day before Karen Leclair supposedly fell overboard. Christopher Leclair was alone when the boat returned later that day, police said.
The same cameras captured Christopher Leclair leaving the dock in Doris M. alone on Sunday at 12:02 p.m. ― roughly two hours before he made the distress call, police said.
“The trouble is, we really have a big span of time ― 24 hours, in essence ― when we last saw her on video to when he reported [her missing], and he was out on the water at least eight hours over the course of it,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Wayne Kline told The Erie Daily Times.
Court documents say Christopher Leclair admitted to having an affair with another woman, according to “Inside Edition.” That woman, when questioned by police, said Leclair spent Saturday night at her house. The two also reportedly discussed moving in together.
No one other than Christopher Leclair has been charged in Karen Leclair’s death.
It’s unclear if Christopher Leclair has an attorney. Pennsylvania State Police did not return calls for comment Friday. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 26.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Pennsylvania State Police at 914-898-1641.