Army soldier convicted of Cypress hotel shooting

AWOL Army soldier, Steven Matthew LeClaire, Jr. left his post in February 2011 and ended up murdering one and shooting at two others.

LeClaire left his post in El Paso, Texas and travelled to Orange County, after a visit from his younger sister.

According to the L.A. Times, LeClaire, his father and two friends were drinking in a room at the Cypress Lodge on Lincoln Avenue. During the evening, LeClaire, 26, pulled out a gun and fatally shot his friend Marques Murray, 24, in the arm and chest. Murray died on the scene. He also fired multiple shots at his father, Steven LeClaire, Sr. and his other friend, Raymond Eligan.

According to CBS Los Angeles, LeClaire attempted to shoot his 42-year-old father several times and shot Eligan, 51, in the legs when he attempted to leave the room. They both survived the incident.

It was discovered that his father was the target of his rampage. LeClaire believed that he had been mistreating his 14-year-old sister by giving her alcohol and allowing one of his friends to flirt with her. His sister had allegedly told him that she had an uncomfortable encounter with their dad’s 42-year-old friend.

After the shootings, LeClaire walked out of the hotel room and promptly surrendered to an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer.

Defense attorney, Gassia Apkarian claimed that LeClaire was unstable due to alcohol and drug abuse. She described him as a functioning alcoholic. The evening of the altercation, she said he was an angry functioning alcoholic because of what he believed had happened to his sister.

But had he wanted to kill his father, he would have had the chance during any of the preceding 21 days they were together, Apkarian maintained.

An Orange County jury on Friday convicted the 26-year-old Army specialist of murdering his friend. LeClaire was found guilty of one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He could face a minimum sentence of 90 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in October.


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