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Officials request public's help in finding missing Ethete man

May 17, 2013 - From staff reports

Sheriff Skip Hornecker called the ongoing search for Curt LeClair, 62, of Ethete, an "open criminal investigation" in a press release Friday.

He enlisted the public's help in locating LeClair, who has been missing since about 2:30 a.m. Friday when he reportedly left the area of 532 Diversion Dam Road on foot.

"If Mr. LeClair did actually drown in the canal, (then) his remains are downstream in the canal," Hornecker said in the press release. "I would like to impress upon all water users of the Wyoming Canal and its outlets to please thoroughly examine any catch grates, siphons or obstructions daily for any evidence that might lead to locating Mr. LeClair."

The official search for LeClair has been "scaled down" as of Friday, Hornecker continued, describing the "finite" search that crews have conducted over a

nine-mile stretch of the Wyoming Canal between Diversion Dam and the inlet area of Pilot Butte Reservoir.

"With the high level of search techniques used on Thursday it has been concluded that Mr. LeClair is either not in the Wyoming Canal, has moved through the diversion system at Pilot Butte Reservoir and entered the reservoir itself, or has moved miles down the irrigation canal," Hornecker said.

On Thursday morning, crews reportedly used a 21-foot boat equipped with a side-scan sonar unit to search the inlet flow area of Pilot Butte Reservoir. Hornecker said the same boat was later placed in the Wyoming Canal where it was used to scour the canal floor, sides, siphons and outlets looking for any evidence of LeClair's possible drowning.

Officials plan to comb the canal's ditch banks, fly aircraft over the canal on occasion and conduct small search and rescue exercises on the canal over the coming days, looking for additional evidence into LeClair's whereabouts. Further information about the criminal investigation was unavailable Friday.

According to reports, LeClair wears glasses and has gray hair. He was last seen wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt with blue stripes as well as boots and Wrangler jeans. In earlier reports, Hornecker said he didn't know whether LeClair actually fell into the canal, but "strong indications" have led investigators to that conclusion.

Criminal investigation

Lt. Bill Braddock said officials don't suspect foul play in connection with LeClair's disappearance. He said the FCSO is following protocol by treating the incident as a criminal investigation.

"The easiest way for us to do something like this is to treat anything as the worst-case scenario," Braddock said Friday. "In this case it would be homicide until we get some answers. That way we get all our bases covered."

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