Denton, TX – Texas Rangers are investigating after a 57-year-old convicted child predator died after chugging a bottle of an unidentified substance in the courtroom right after the jury found him guilty on Thursday.
A Denton County jury found Edward Leclair guilty on Aug. 11 on five counts of sexual assault against one juvenile victim, the Associated Press reported.
Denton County Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck said Leclair had the water bottle at the defense table the whole time he was in court that day but wasn’t drinking it, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
When the guilty verdict was read, he “just chugged it,” Beck said.
Mike Howard, Leclair’s defense attorney, said he thought he had seen his client sipping from the water bottle throughout the morning, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
Howard said that when the verdict was read, he watched Leclair steady himself and then take a prolonged drink from his water bottle before he was taken back to the holding room.
Witnesses said the contents of the water bottle appeared “murky.”
A county investigator assigned to the courtroom had also seen Leclair chug the contents of his water bottle and sent a bailiff to check on him in the holding room, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) press release on Aug. 12 said the bailiff found Leclair had collapsed and was unconscious.
Howard said that deputies performed First Aid on his client until the ambulance arrived, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
“I saw him being taken out on the gurney,” the lawyer told reporters at the courthouse right after the incident. “His color and pallor didn’t look good – gray – and then he was taken to the hospital. Beyond that, that’s all I can say.”
The Denton Fire Department received a 911 call from the courthouse at about 2:39 p.m., the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
“They found the patient unconscious but breathing, in custody and evaluated him at the scene,” Denton Battalion Chief David Boots wrote in an email. “He was then transported to a local hospital in critical condition where he later died.”
On Friday morning, the judge brought the jury back into the courtroom and explained what had happened to the defendant, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
“Everyone expressed how thankful they were for their services and stressed that it was not their fault and not their responsibility,” Howard said.
The attorney said the judge hasn’t yet set a date to return to court to finish settling Leclair’s case, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
He said it was likely that the judge would declare a mistrial.
“To a legal extent, it does prevent ultimate justice being done for all sides,” Howard said. “The alleged victim and Ed’s family won’t get to the ultimate conclusion.”
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet released a cause of death for Leclair and the Texas Rangers are investigating the death in custody.
Frisco police arrested Leclair at 10 a.m. on July 26, 2018, for a series of illicit acts that began in July of 2016, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
The search warrant affidavit said that his victim – a 14-year-old girl – had posted a personal ad on Craig’s List.
Leclair replied to the ad, met up with the girl, and drove her to a hotel where they engaged in sex, according to the affidavit.
Charging documents said Leclair paid her $200 and she emailed a naked picture of herself to him afterwards, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
The victim told Leclair she was 14 years old after the first encounter, but he continued to communicate with her for sex, according to the affidavit.
The search warrant affidavit said Leclair and the girl had three more sexual encounters, including one that occurred at Leclair’s home in Frisco, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported.
Police launched an investigation after the victim’s mother reported that her then 16-year-old daughter had been assaulted by Leclair.
Leclair was indicted by a Denton County grand jury on five counts of sexual assault in February of 2020.