Grandmother charged with leaving children alone waives hearing

February 12, 2013

A South Strabane Township grandmother who left her two young grandchildren home alone with a loaded gun within reach last month waived her case to court Tuesday and entered into a tentative plea agreement.

Catherine McClelland, 60, of 364 Clearfield Ave., was charged by South Strabane police with child endangerment after she allegedly left her two small grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, home alone while she went to work in Bridgeville. She was scheduled for a preliminary hearing before District Judge Jay Weller.

Before leaving the home, she told her 5-year-old granddaughter to call 911 in the event of an emergency. After an hour, the girl reportedly became scared so she called 911. The dispatchers were able to ascertain that she was home alone with her 3-year-old brother.

When officers John Bruner and Clay Graham arrived, they found the two children with two dogs and two cats. Police described the house as a “total wreck.” The hallways were impassable and food debris was found in the kitchen. There were also dog and cat feces and the house smelled “terrible.” Clothing and boxes were built up within every room, and there were exposed wires.

Police also found knives within the reach of the children. The 3-year-old boy asked police if they wanted to see “Mimi’s gun” and took the officers to a bedroom and pointed to a revolver. The boy told police to shoot it because it was not loaded. Police secured the 9mm handgun and determined it contained four live rounds and was in working condition.

As part of the agreement, McClelland would be placed in the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for 18 months. She also would not be permitted to baby-sit her grandchildren until she successfully completes parenting classes. The gun confiscated by police also will be destroyed.

McClelland remains free on her own recognizance.

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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