AWOL Army soldier Steven Matthew LeClaire was sentenced this morning to 101 years in state prison for bursting into a Cypress motel room, killing a man and injuring his father and a third man with a hail of bullets.
The 26-year-old was convicted in August of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for the Feb. 24, 2011, shooting rampage at Cypress Lodge on Lincoln Avenue.
LeClaire's blasts generated so much heat that the motel room's smoke alarm went off.
The U.S. Army specialist was AWOL from his base in El Paso, Texas, in February 2011, when he came to Orange County–with a chip on his shoulder. Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson told jurors in Santa Ana that LeClaire disclosed to an Army roommate he wanted to kill his father. The younger LeClaire was upset over a visit his then-14-year-old sister had the previous September with Steven Francis LeClaire, who the defendant believed had plied the girl with alcohol and had a friend who touched her inappropriately.
As his father, 24-year-old Marques Murray and then-51-year-old Raymond Eligan were watching a basketball game in a Cypress Lodge motel room around 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2011, the soldier busted inside and fired several rounds. His father was hit several times and Eligan was clipped in the legs trying to escape, but both survived. Murray, who took rounds to the arm and chest, died.
Ten hours after the shooting, gunman LeClaire blew a 0.10, meaning his blood-alcohol content was likely closer to 0.24 when he opened fire. His attorney Gassia Apkarian called her client a "functioning alcoholic" who abused "bath salts." But she sought an involuntary manslaughter verdict, arguing that LeClaire did not intend to harm anyone that fateful night.