BILLINGS -- The Billings man who plans to claim he destroyed evidence of a murder in the Billings Heights last summer because he was afraid for his own life has been allowed to live in North Dakota and travel to Minnesota for work training ahead of trial that is set for Wednesday.
Michael LeClair, 35, is charged in Yellowstone County District Court with felony tampering with evidence for allegedly removing the body of Rory Wanner, who was killed in June.
LeClair, who has been out on bond since he was charged, has been living in North Dakota and traveling to Minneapolis for training related to his new job, according to court documents.
Judge Gregory Todd signed off on the travel request, which indicates LeClair would return before his trial.
LeClair filed a notice earlier that he plans to claim he was compelled to move Wanner’s body out of fear that he would be harmed otherwise.
LeClair’s co-defendant, William Hoffert, has been held at the Yellowstone County jail on $700,000 bond since he allegedly planned to flee in July.
Hoffert has since been charged with a new crime for allegedly punching a stranger in the face and breaking the man’s jaw outside a pizza shop.
According to court documents, the victim reported that he had been at Carbones Pizza on Grand Avenue before walking to his truck in the parking lot.
Hoffert approached the man and called him by name, according to court documents.
When the man turned, Hoffert allegedly punched the man in the face repeatedly without warning.
After the attack was over, the man said Hoffert told him, “I’m Billy Hoffert” and left in a vehicle driven by another man.
The victim said he did not know the name.
The victim took a photo of the license plate on the vehicle Hoffert left in and provided it to police.
The victim went to the hospital and learned he had a broken jaw and nose.
Surveillance footage reviewed from the scene shows a man walk up to the victim and assault him, according to court documents.
It’s unclear what motivated the assault.
Hoffert and LeClair are set for trial Wednesday on charges related to the death of Wanner, whose body was discovered in a shallow grave outside Roundup.
Authorities have yet to release a cause of death for Wanner, but a third person of interest in the case, Tyler Crawford, said Wanner was beaten to death.
Crawford, who is awaiting trial on multiple unrelated charges, told investigators that Wanner was set up during a drug deal and assaulted over some conflict related to a woman.
Crawford is not in custody.
Prosecutors did not immediately return calls about whether trial is still on for Wednesday.