Grandmother leaves children home alone

January 9, 2013

A South Strabane Township grandmother is accused of leaving her two grandchildren home alone Monday morning while she went to work an eight-hour shift at her job in Bridgeville.

Not only is Catherine McClelland, 60, of 364 Clearfield Ave., accused of leaving the 5-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy alone in a house that township police said was in deplorable condition, but a loaded revolver was within their reach, police said.

Township police Officer John Bruner believes the children were alone for about an hour before the girl decided to call 911. Apparently before she left for the day, McClelland told the 5-year-old girl to call 911 in the event of an emergency.

“The little girl apparently became very scared so she called 911,” Bruner said. “She kept calling 911 and hanging up. The two dispatchers did a great job determining that she was home alone with her little brother and that was why she was frightened.”

When Bruner and Officer Clay Graham arrived at the home about 8:20 a.m., they found the two children. Inside the house were two dogs and two cats. Wires were also exposed.

Police described the house as being a “total wreck.” Hallways were impassable, food debris was found in the kitchen, and dog and cat feces were on the floor. There also were knives within reach of the children. Police called Washington County Children and Youth Services.

Bruner said while they were waiting for CYS, the 3-year-old asked him and Graham if they wanted to see “MiMi’s gun.” The boy took them to a bedroom and pointed out a revolver. The boy reportedly told the officers “Shoot it, it’s not loaded.” Bruner secured the gun and found it to be a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber Special revolver loaded with four live rounds.

The children were taken into custody by CYS workers, who took them to a safe location.

McClelland told police she left them at home alone because she needed to go to work to pay for their care.

Police charged her with endangering the welfare of children. The charge will be sent by summons from the office of District Judge Jay Weller.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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