Reward grows in McClellan murder

March 21, 2013
This is one of the last photos taken of Betty Amos McClellan with all four of her children as she celebrated her 70th birthday at the home of her daughter, Shelly Amos James, in 2008. In front, from left, are Betty and Dave Amos; second row, James and Lisa Amos Gerhart. In the rear is Sherry Amos Coffey. - Submitted

WAYNESBURG –It was four years ago today that 70-year-old Betty Jane Amos McClellan was murdered inside her Sycamore home. Her family and friends continue the quest to find her killer and bring them to justice.

A reward fund has more than doubled to over $5,000 since her death, symbolic of how much she meant to those who knew her.

Patty Friend, owner of the Pennsylvania Livestock Auction in Waynesburg, considered Betty family. She had worked in the kitchen at the auction for more than 20 years.

“She was one of the best of the best. She was like a sister to me. She loved people, loved the Lord, and she lived for her kids. There was no doubt about that,” Friend said. “People of all walks of life still come in and ask, ‘Where is that wonderful woman?’”

Friend said Betty was the type of person who helped people because she had a strong faith. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, she said.

“Her picture still hangs here at the livestock auction, and it will as long as I’m alive. She’ll always be here, and she is here,” Friend said, making a plea. “If anyone knows anything, please come forward, any information that may lead to solving her murder. No matter how small you might think it is, please come forward.”

It was 3 a.m. March 23, 2009, when there was a knock on the door of the Oakdale residence of Betty’s daughter, Shelly James.

“I woke my husband up and told him somebody is at the door. They asked if Betty McClellan was my mother,” James said. “I just started saying, ‘no, no, no.’”

Her mother and stepfather had been shot. Betty died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Her husband, Jake McClellan, was hospitalized for five days, shot in the cheek and the neck.

Based on Jake’s description, police issued an alert for a white Ford Econoline van, possibly a late 1980s model with windows on the side and rear doors. A description was given of a white male in his mid-40s, medium build, between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall, short brown hair and a light mustache. No description was given for a second person who was said to be the driver.

James, her twin sister, Sherry Coffey, and sister, Lisa Gerhart, spoke candidly about their mother and the investigation into her death. Each expressed their frustration that information about the case has been so scarce.

“The police call us every few months to say they are doing stuff,” Coffey said. One of the original investigating officers assured them it would never be considered a cold case.

James said there was always talk it was a robbery by people looking for money or something to sell to get cash for drugs. That has never added up, according to Betty’s daughters.

“Her jewelry wasn’t touched, not that there was anything really of value, but there were mugs in the kitchen in plain view full of coins. They walked right past it. There was a gun on the nightstand right by where she was shot,” Coffey said. “My brother Dave’s rifle was sitting behind a dresser.”

James said it never made sense why someone would choose her mother’s residence.

“Why choose this junked out trailer when there were nice houses all around it?” she asked. Although the residence was in a remote area, within a quarter mile there are other houses, some that one would think a thief would find more enticing, she said.

Gerhart said her family is grateful for all of the support they have received from family and friends in the Graysville area. Looking through family photographs, the girls described Betty as one in a million. She was the seamstress for their wedding gowns, a band booster parent, Sunday school teacher and packrat who even kept her grown children’s baby teeth in a drawer.

“We miss her more and more every day. She didn’t deserve to die this way, nobody does. But, we know where she is,” James said.

Trooper Robert Cree said the state police would welcome any help in solving Betty’s murder.

“Anything anybody knows, feel free to call us,” he said. “This case is still open and active.”

Betty’s murder came just months after that of 81-year-old Noble Wine of Waynesburg. Wine was shot and his house set ablaze in an apparent attempt to cover up the shooting. It, too, remains under investigation.

Anyone with information about the murder of Betty McClellan or Noble Wine is asked to call state police in Waynesburg at 724-627-6151.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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