A Texas medical examiner determined that a sex offender who drank a cloudy liquid from a water bottle in a courtroom and later died had ingested a fatal amount of sodium nitrite. This happened after the individual was convicted of sexually assaulting a child.
Edward Leclair, aged 57, ingested the liquid upon the verdict of the first count on August 11, 2022, and continued to drink it as the subsequent counts were read. He later fell unconscious in his cell and passed away.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office confirmed to DailyMail.com that Edward Leclair's manner of death was classified as suicide, caused by the toxic effects of sodium nitrite.
Edward Leclair was facing five counts of child sexual assault against one victim, charged with raping a girl between the ages of 13 and 17 on five occasions from 2016 to 2018. Jamie Beck, First Assistant Attorney from the Denton County District Attorney's Office, reported that the proceedings were initially normal.
However, upon hearing the guilty verdict for the first count, Leclair grabbed his bottle and consumed the cloudy liquid as the verdict for the remaining four counts was being read.
"It wasn't like he was just taking sips of water. He was literally throwing it back, so to speak," Beck said at the time.
Beck stated that although Leclair's actions were perceived as peculiar by those present in the courtroom, they were believed to be simply his way of coping with the circumstances.
After the verdict was read, Leclair was returned to a holding cell, and due to his unusual behavior, officers later decided to check on him.
Leclair was discovered to be unconscious, with witnesses reporting that his complexion had "gone gray." He was promptly transported 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."
According to The New York Times, surveillance footage from inside the Denton County Court building shows Edward Leclair purchasing the water from a courthouse vending machine at around 7 am.
Prosecutors suspected that while the jurors were deliberating for three and a half hours, Leclair, who was on bond, added the chemical compound to his water bottle.
Mike Howard, Leclair's lawyer, informed The New York Times that upon realizing the potential sentence of up to 100 years in prison, Leclair had stated, "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."
According to his attorney, Leclair had worked as a corporate recruiter for several years prior to losing his job during the pandemic.
His attorney described Leclair as "normal," stating that during the trial, he was taking notes, responding to questions, and actively participating in the legal proceedings.
In February 2022, actress Lindsey Pearlman, aged 43, died by suicide due to toxicity from sodium nitrite.
Lindsey Pearlman, known for her roles in "General Hospital," "Empire," "Chicago Justice," and "American Housewife," was found dead inside a vehicle near Runyon Canyon after being reported missing by family members.
In August 2022, former child star Matthew Mindler, 19, died after ingesting a fatal dose of sodium nitrate, according to his mother. Sodium nitrate, a chemical compound similar to the synthetic substance sodium nitrite, was the cause of death.
Monica Mindler informed TMZ that her son had conducted online research on the toxic compound, specifically regarding its use for suicide and causing a painless end to life.
According to Monica Mindler, her son was able to purchase the sodium nitrate on Amazon for just $15, which she claims was enough to kill four people.
Two families whose teenagers purchased and used the deadly compound to commit suicide are suing Amazon for selling the toxic substance through its website, referred to as "suicide kits."
On September 30, 2020, 16-year-old Kristine Jonsson from Hilliard, Ohio, committed suicide. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Ethan McCarthy from Milton, West Virginia, took his own life on January 7, 2021.
The families of Jonsson and McCarthy have filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging that the teenagers purchased the toxic chemical, Loudwolf Sodium Nitrite, from the company's website for $19.99. The chemical, used for food preservation, can be lethal if ingested in large amounts.
The lawsuit filed in California state court in September alleges that Amazon suggested customers buy a scale, anti-vomiting medication, and Amazon's version of a guidebook on assisted suicide in addition to Loudwolf Sodium Nitrite, which they sold for $19.99. The chemical, used for food preservation, can be fatal if ingested in high doses.
The families of the two deceased teenagers claimed in the lawsuit that Amazon was aware of the dangers posed by the chemical, but still continued to sell it for profit.
The families of the two deceased teenagers assert that Amazon knowingly sold toxic chemicals for profit and used its algorithms to suggest the purchase of "suicide kits" along with related products.
The families of the two teens, through their attorneys, argue that Amazon should have been aware of the dangers posed by the chemical and that by continuing to sell it, they played a role in the deaths of the two young people.
"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.
According to the lawsuit, drinking a mixture of sodium nitrite powder and water can cause a person to lose consciousness within 20 minutes.
Both the McCarthy and Jonsson families experienced severe emotional distress, which resulted in some family members needing to take medication and take time off work for several months.
The lawsuit claims that in the UK, the drug is designated as "reportable," meaning its purchase triggers warnings.
"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 made the voluntary decision to ban the sale of sodium nitrite as a chemical after realizing it could be used for suicide purposes.
However, despite eBay and Etsy taking action, Amazon still offers the sale of sodium nitrite on its website as of November 2020.
"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 lawsuit states.
In January 2023, Congress sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, expressing their grave worry that Amazon was granting minors and adults easy access to the lethal chemical sodium nitrite.
The lawmakers expressed that Amazon's ease of access and quick delivery of the deadly chemical sodium nitrite contributed to fatalities.
The lawsuit states that Amazon has not replied to the letter from Congress.
The same law firm has filed a lawsuit against Amazon in Washington state on behalf of the families of two individuals, 27-year-old Mikael Scott and 17-year-old Tyler Muhleman, who both used sodium nitrite to take their own lives.
Families are demanding compensation from Amazon and the manufacturer of the drug, Loudwolf, without specifying the amount.
Sodium nitrite is a yellowish-white, odorless salt-like substance that is used in small amounts to preserve meats like bacon, hot dogs, and ham. It can be purchased online.
According to experts, consuming high levels of sodium nitrite can result in breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, and even death.
Presently, various forms of sodium nitrite can be purchased on Amazon.com.
In October, Amazon released a statement emphasizing its commitment to customer safety but maintained that it cannot be held accountable for the improper use of its products.
A representative of Amazon informed the media: "We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones personally affected by suicide."
"Customer safety is a top priority at Amazon. We are committed to a safe shopping experience and require our selling partners to follow all applicable laws and regulations when listing items in our store."
"Sodium nitrite is a legal and widely-available product offered by retailers to preserve foods, such as meats and fish, and for use in laboratories as a reagent."
"Sodium nitrite is not intended for consumption, and unfortunately, like many products, it can be misused."