Pair want charges dropped in Coal Center slaying

Pair claim they didn’t conspire to kill elderly Coal Center woman

December 12, 2012

A Coal Center man and his stepmother are contending that they knew nothing about plans by their father and husband to steal money from and then kill a 92-year-old woman.

David J. McClelland, 37, and Diane Marie McClelland, 49, are asking Washington County Judge John DiSalle to dismiss charges that were filed against them in connection with the actions committed by 57-year-old David Allen McClelland.

In October, the elder McClelland pleaded guilty to first-degree murder before DiSalle and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for stabbing Evelyn Stepko to death in her home July 17, 2011, at 1076 Pike Run Drive, Coal Center.

David Allen McClelland also received a consecutive sentence of 21 years and 4 months to 42 years and 8 months in prison on charges of stealing more than $215,000 from the woman over a two-year span.

The younger McClelland, a former part-time police officer in Washington Township, Fayette County, also is charged with homicide. Prosecutors contend he aided his father in committing Stepko’s murder.

Diane Marie McClelland is accused of conspiring with the men to commit the murder and knowing about the burglaries.

Originally hired by his neighbor to cut her grass, the prosecution said the elder McClelland came to abuse that trust, burglarize Stepko’s home and stab her to death during a robbery.

Prior to her murder, Stepko had reported five separate burglary-related incidents to local police between August 2009 and May 2011. The prosecution said Stepko’s phone lines were cut close to the date of her death.

Stepko was found face-down in a pool of blood in her basement July 18, 2011, with two stab wounds to the neck and multiple injuries to her chest.

The elder McClelland, who lived between 100 and 200 yards away from his victim, acted like a concerned neighbor when firefighters and police arrived to check on Stepko and discovered her body, the prosecution said. Prior to his arrest, he even spoke to television news reporters.

A bloody latex glove found at the scene linked the elder McClelland to the homicide through both DNA and fingerprint evidence.

The younger McClelland, who reportedly received about $2,000 monthly from his father, admitted to police in July 2011 he confronted his father in February of that year about the source of the money, court records show. During the confrontation, the elder McClelland allegedly admitted to his son he had been stealing the cash from Stepko.

According to police, the money was used to gamble and to purchase property, three vehicles and a cache of firearms.

Meanwhile, the three McClellands, together, ran through $28,000 at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, while the elder McClelland showed up to a real estate closing with $10,000 in a brown bag.

Investigators testified Wednesday that thousands of dollars of tools, guns and money were found at David James McClelland’s home.

Trooper Charles Morrison said the money found at the home was older, with serial numbers that dated the bills to the 1950s to 1980s.

According to police records, Diane McClelland previously told police she earned $22,000 a year working at a local Shop ’n Save, and her husband received $1,000 a month in disability.

Meanwhile, more than $38,000 was deposited into the couple’s bank account June 28, 2010, followed by another $15,000 three months later, according to a police affidavit. That same month, McClelland’s wife purchased a car for $11,750, which she then gave to her stepson, court records show.

Attorney Brian Gorman, who represents Diane McClelland, and attorney Joshua Camson, the younger McClelland’s counsel, contend there is no proof their clients conspired in anyway with David Allen McClelland in either stealing the money or murdering Stepko.

DiSalle gave the attorneys 15 days to file written briefs, with 10 days for the prosecutor to respond. The McClellands are scheduled for trial in February. They are to be tried separately.

In the meantime, Diane McClelland remains free on $100,000 bond while the younger McClelland continues to be lodged in the Greene County jail.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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