A sex offender who died after downing a cloudy liquid from a water bottle in a Texas courtroom after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a child ingested a lethal amount of sodium nitrite, a medical examiner has found.
Edward Leclair, 57, started drinking the liquid after the jury found him guilty on the first count and continued drinking it as the other counts were read on August 11, 2022. He collapsed in his cell and died soon after.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office told DailyMail.com on Tuesday that the manner in which Leclair died was suicide and his cause of death was the toxic effects of sodium nitrite.
Leclair had been facing five counts of child sexual assault against one victim, accused of raping a girl between 13 and 17 years old five times from 2016 to 2018. First Assistant Attorney Jamie Beck from the Denton County District Attorney’s Office said at the time that initially the situation had been normal.
But when Leclair heard that he had been found guilty on the first count, he grabbed his bottle and ‘chugged’ the cloudy liquid as he was found guilty on the other four counts.
‘It wasn’t like he was just taking sips of water. He was literally throwing it back, so to speak,’ Beck told WFAA at the time.
Beck explained that while those in the courtroom felt Leclair’s actions were odd, they thought it was just his way of dealing with the situation.
Leclair was taken back into a holding cell after the verdict was read, before officers decided to check on him because of his strange behavior.
He was found unconscious, with witnesses saying he had ‘gone gray’ and was rushed to Medical City Denton where he was pronounced dead.
Beck added: ‘Our investigator noticed him chug the water. He told the bailiff he might want to go check on him. The bailiff did.
‘He was unconscious in the holding cell. Shortly after entering the holdover cell, he started vomiting, and emergency services were called.’
Surveillance video taken from inside the Denton County Court building shows Leclair purchasing the water from a vending machine in the courthouse around 7am, The New York Times reported.
Prosecutors believed that as jurors deliberated for three-and-a-half hours, Leclair who was out on bond, put the chemical compound in his water bottle.
Leclair’s lawyer, Mike Howard told The New York Times that when his client realized that he could face up to 100 years in prison, he said, ‘I think he made the decision to do what he did at the last moment.’
He continued: ‘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 had worked as a corporate recruiter for years before he lost his job during the pandemic, his attorney said.
He described his client as ‘normal’ and said that during the trial he was taking notes, answering questions and was engaged in the legal proceedings.
In February 2022, actress Lindsey Pearlman, 43, died by suicide caused by sodium nitrite toxicity.
The actress who appeared in General Hospital, Empire, Chicago Justice and American Housewife was found dead inside a vehicle near Runyon Canyon after family members had reported her missing.
In August 2022, former child star Matthew Mindler, 19, died by ingesting a lethal dose of sodium nitrate, according to the actor’s mother. The compound of chemicals is similar to sodium nitrite, which is synthetically made.
Monica Mindler told TMZ that her son searched online for information on the toxic compound as it pertained to suicide, and ending one’s life painlessly.
She said that her son was able to obtain sodium nitrate by purchasing it on Amazon, at just $15 in which she says was enough to kill four people.
She warned others of the dangers and ‘hopes someone else’s life can be spared, ‘of folks know what warning signs to look for,’ she said.
Amazon is being sued for selling so-called suicide kits by two families whose teenagers purchased the deadly compound on the company’s website and later used it to commit suicide.
Kristine Jonsson, 16, of Hilliard, Ohio, took her own life on September 30, 2020, while Ethan McCarthy, 17, of Milton, West Virginia, died by suicide on January 7, 2021.
According to the lawsuit, Jonsson and McCarthy purchased Loudwolf Sodium Nitrite from Amazon.com for $19.99. The chemical is used to preserve foods but it can be lethal if taken in high enough quantities.
The complaint that was filed in California state court in September claims Amazon recommended that customers who purchase the chemical should also buy a scale to measure the correct dose, an anti-vomiting drug and Amazon’s edition of a handbook on assisted suicide.
The heartbroken families of the two teens said the retail company knew how dangerous it was long before then, but continued to sell it for a profit.
They also accused Amazon of selling ‘suicide kits’ through its algorithm which targets customers with other, related products.
The two families’ attorneys say Amazon ought to have been aware of the trend and that by continuing to sell the product, they assisted in the deaths of two youngsters.
‘Amazon is selling a product that is as deadly as cyanide,’ Carrie Goldberg and Naomi Leeds, two attorneys for the families from the firm C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, said in a statement.
‘This is different from them selling rope, knives, or other implements that can be used for death because there is no household use for [sodium nitrite] at the level of purity (98-99%) it sells it,’ they said.
Sodium nitrite powder mixed with water and drunk can render a person unconscious within twenty minutes, the lawsuit states.
Both the McCarthy and Jonsson family suffered intense distress, which led to members of the families being prescribed drugs to cope and requiring months off work.
Their lawsuit notes that in the United Kingdom, the drug is deemed ‘reportable’, meaning that its purchase sets off alarms.
‘Had Amazon applied the standard of care it must use for its sales of Sodium Nitrite in the UK, it would have determined that Kristine and Ethan, neither of which had user histories of purchasing meat preservatives, made suspicious, reportable purchases of Sodium Nitrite,’ they state.
In 2019, eBay took the voluntary decision to prohibit the sale of sodium nitrite as a chemical after the company learned it could be used for suicide.
In November 2020, online retailer Etsy also banned the sale of the compound, but Amazon still lists the purchase for sale on their website.
‘In contrast, upon receiving notice that the Sodium Nitrite it was selling and delivering was killing kids, Amazon made the informed decision, on the counsel and advice of their lawyers, to continue to sell a substance they know is sold over and over again for suicide,’ the law suit states.
In January this year, Congress wrote to Amazon’s CEO, Andy Jassy, expressing its deep concern that Amazon was providing ‘minors and adults with easy access to sodium nitrite, a deadly chemical.’
The lawmakers said that they felt Amazon’s easy sale of sodium nitrite, combined with its speedy delivery of the product, caused deaths.
Amazon has not responded to their letter, the suit says.
Amazon has also been sued in Washington state by the same firm, on behalf of the families of two others – 27-year-old Mikael Scott and 17-year-old Tyler Muhleman – who also used it to kill themselves.
The families are seeking unspecified damages from Amazon and the company that made the drug, Loudwolf.
Sodium nitrite is a salt-like substance that is yellowish-white, and odorless. The substance is used in low concentration to cure meats, such as bacon, hot dogs and ham, and can be bought over the internet.