A convicted child sexual abuser facing 100 years in prison has died after drinking from a bottle of water believed to contain cyanide as the guilty verdict was read out in court.
Edward Leclair, 57, started chugging water from a bottle after a jury in Denton County, Texas, found him to have committed five counts of child sexual assault.
He was rushed to hospital but did not survive, leaving members of the jury in tears and court staff and lawyers shaken.
“I looked over and noticed him drinking,” Mike Howard, his lawyer, said. “His hand was shaking. At the time, I thought it was shaking because of the verdict. Then he kept drinking and drinking.”
Jamie Beck, the first assistant attorney for the Denton County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, said: “We’ve had incidents of people fainting. We’ve had heart attacks. We’ve even had people who fake illness. But never something like this,” he told the Washington Post.
The cause of death is still being examined, but prosecutors believe that Leclair - who had been out on bond - managed to sneak the deadly poison cyanide into the courthouse and put it into a bottle of water he purchased that morning.
Leclair would have been sentenced Friday
Mr Howard added: “I think he made the decision to do what he did at the last moment,” when he realised that he could face up to 100 years in prison, which was a likely outcome given the seriousness of the charges and the conservative nature of the county.
“Had he waited another 30 seconds, he would have been in sheriff’s custody and not had access to that bottled water. He wouldn’t have been able to. So, you know, I think he knew.”
Leclair, a former navy mechanic and corporate recruiter, was accused of five counts of sexual assault on a person between the age of 14 and 17, including rape.
He said he was innocent of the charges, but the victim testified during the trial, sharing graphic details, and a jury convicted him after three-and-a-half hours of deliberations.
He was supposed to receive his sentence on Friday.