He Murdered His Wife and Tossed Her Overboard to Be with Mistress in 'Depraved' Years-Long Plot
Christopher Leclair was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering his wife, Karen, last year — but he maintains his innocence
A Pennsylvania man who lived a double life and who was convicted in October of murdering his wife and throwing her body overboard into Lake Erie in 2017 has been ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison, PEOPLE confirms.
In court Tuesday, 49-year-old Christopher Leclair, of Erie, was sentenced to an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, plus three years and nine months to 17 years, for first-degree murder and other charges in the slaying of his wife, 51-year-old Karen Leclair, online court records show.
Judge John Trucilla also ordered Leclair to pay $705,974 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard for their search efforts after he falsely claimed his wife had fallen overboard on June 10, 2017, the Erie Times-News reports. In fact, according to authorities, Christopher had fatally shot Karen and used an anchor to sink her body into the lake.
Before handing down the sentence, Trucilla expressed shock at the murder, which rocked the quiet lakeside town.
“There was almost a recognizable gasp in this community when this crime was committed,” Trucilla said, according to local TV station WJET. “The depravity and depths that you went to calculate this murder are unlike any this court has ever seen.”
In addition to first-degree murder, Christopher was also found guilty of aggravated assault, tampering with physical evidence, abuse of a corpse, possession of an instrument of crime, firearms not to be carried with a license and false reports.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
In court, Christopher’s court-appointed lawyer, Bruce Sandmeyer, continued to claim that Christopher threw Karen’s body overboard after she shot and killed herself on their commercial fishing boat because she was so upset over her husband’s longtime affair, The Morning Call reports.
Echoing what they had successfully argued at trial, prosecutors said that Christopher plotted to kill his wife for nearly 10 years and finally went through with his plan when his girlfriend pressured him to end his marriage, according to WJET.
“Rather than just leave her, this man decides to take her out to his boat and shoot her,” First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz said in court on Tuesday, the Times-News reports. “It’s chilling what he did that day.”
During the trial, Hirz said that Christopher killed Karen because his “double life … came to a head” when his mistress demanded in June 2017 that he get a divorce.
Sandemeyer tells PEOPLE that Christopher is expected to appeal, but he declined further comment.
• Read the shocking tales of people lured into cults and controversial groups in PEOPLE’s True Crime Stories: Cults, available now on Amazon and wherever magazines are sold.
Karen was last seen on June 10, 2017, leaving the marina with her husband aboard their boat, authorities have said. Her body was found three weeks later, on July 4, 2017, in Lake Erie, tied with rope and weighed down with an anchor.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge remembered Karen as “a ray of light” who did everything she could to save her marriage, according to the Times-News.
“She gave of herself to the very end,” Trucilla reportedly said.
After the hearing, Frank Case, Karen’s brother, called her selfless.
Comparing her to her murderous husband, he told the Times-News: “You had the two opposites, just like positive and negative. Selfless and selfish.”