A man who died shortly after his guilty verdict was read inside a Texas courtroom last year committed suicide by consuming a toxic level of a common food preservative, a new report says.
On August 11, 2022, 57-year-old Edward Leclair was standing inside a courtroom in Denton, Texas. He was on trial for five counts of child sexual abuse. After just three and a half hours of deliberation, the jury had settled on a verdict: guilty. As the judge read the verdict, Leclair reportedly began to "chug" what appeared to be a "cloudy" liquid inside a water bottle.
Moments later, the bailiff found Leclair unconscious in his holding cell. Leclair was quickly rushed to the Medical City Denton hospital, where he was pronounced dead just before 3 p.m. that same day.
Now, a new report from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined a cause of death. The "cloudy" liquid Leclair drank turned out to be sodium nitrite partially dissolved in water. Though sodium nitrite is a fairly common substance, often used as a food preservative for meat, large quantities of it can cause low blood pressure and limit the flow of oxygen throughout the body.
Security footage from the courthouse captured Leclair purchasing a bottle of water from a vending machine at around 7 a.m. on the day he died. His lawyer, Mike Howard, said at the time that Leclair likely knew what he was doing.
"Had [Leclair] waited another 30 seconds, he would have been in sheriff’s custody and not had access to that bottled water," Howard said. "He wouldn’t have been able to. So, you know, I think he knew."
Howard speculated that his client was motivated to kill himself because he faced a sentence of 100 years in prison. "[H]e made the decision to do what he did at the last moment," Howard said. The medical examiner has ruled Leclair's death a suicide.
Leclair is not the only high-profile figure to commit suicide using sodium nitrite. A medical examiner determined that 43-year-old "Empire" actress Lindsey Pearlman ingested the substance to kill herself in February 2022. About six months before that, former child actor Matthew Mindler, best known for his role on "As the World Turns" and in movies such as "Frequency" and "Our Idiot Brother," purchased sodium nitrite on Amazon and committed suicide with it shortly thereafter. He was just 19.
The families of two deceased teens have also sued Amazon for selling what they call "suicide kits," which include sodium nitrite. Carrie Goldberg, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, claimed that even one teaspoon of highly purified sodium nitrite can be lethal.
Leclair was convicted of having sexual relations with a girl he had met on Craigslist in 2016. He had at least four sexual encounters with the girl, three of which occurred after she told him that she was only 14. The girl's mother reported Leclair to the authorities.
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