Testimony to begin Wednesday in Stepko slaying

April 1, 2013
David James McClelland is escorted by two deputies out of Washington County Courthouse Monday. - Katie Roupe Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A Washington County jury of seven men and five women is scheduled to hear opening arguments and testimony Wednesday morning in the case of David James McClelland, the third and final member of a family charged in connection with the murder of Evelyn Stepko, a 92-year-old widow who mistrusted banks and kept thousands of dollars in cash in her home in Coal Center.

The prosecution and defense also selected two female alternates, completing the daylong task after most courthouse offices had closed for the day. They and Judge John F. DiSalle conducted the interview process, known as voir dire, individually, so potential jurors would not be influenced by others’ answers.

About half of the 35 members of the jury pool raised their hands when asked if they were aware of the case through pre-trial publicity. Others were acquainted with people on the witness list.

David James McClelland, 27, who lived in the part of California Borough known as Granville, was a part-time police officer in Washington Township, Fayette County, until he was charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, burglary, dealing in the proceeds of illegal activities and aiding in the consummation of a crime.

He has been incarcerated since his arrest a few weeks after Stepko was found dead July 18, 2011, in her home, of stab wounds. The trial is expected to last at least through Friday.

His father, David Allan McClelland, who did yard work for Stepko, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in October. He is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

A Washington County jury on March 1 convicted David J. McClelland’s stepmother, Diane McClelland, 50, of conspiracy with four components: homicide, burglary, dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity and theft; and a separate count of receiving stolen property.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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