Cause of death ruled for man who ‘chugged’ poisoned water after child sex assault conviction

A man who was found dead in his cell after being convicted by a Denton County jury of sexually assaulting a child killed himself by ingesting sodium nitrate, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The medical examiner’s office told the Star-Telegram in an email that the final report has not been completed, but Edward Leclair on Aug. 11, 2022, died from toxic effects of sodium nitrate.

Authorities said Leclair “chugged” a water bottle containing what was at the time an unidentified, cloudy fluid in the courtroom. The 56-year-old man had the large water bottle with him bu had not been drinking from it during the trial, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported. But, the newspaper reported, when the jury returned the guilty verdict, the defendant downed the bottle.

Leclair, who had been free on bond, was taken into custody and sent to the holding cell, which is located next to the courtroom, attorneys said. The jury had been sent out of the room so the judge could decide when the punishment phase of the trial would begin, the Record-Chronicle reported.

First Assistant Attorney Jamie Beck with the Denton County District Attorney’s Office told the Record-Chronicle that an investigator alerted the bailiff to what Leclair had done.

When authorities checked on him, Leclair was unconscious. He was later taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“We have had people who faint, have heart attacks and had a shooting, but never in my 27 years have we had something like this happen,” Beck told the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Leclair died at 3:21 p.m. Aug. 11 at the hospital, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The Denton County Sheriff’s Office told the Associated Press that the in-custody death was being investigated by the Texas Rangers.

Leclair’s water bottle was collected as evidence.

Leclair, a corporate recruiter, was found guilty on five counts of sexual assault of a child, all of which involved one victim.

Denton County court records indicate the offense occurred in July 2016, and he was arrested two years later. He had been released from jail on bond until the trial began.