Witness: McClelland had arsenal of new weapons

April 4, 2013
David James McClelland is escorted by two deputies out of Washington County Courthouse Monday. McClelland is charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, burglary, dealing in the proceeds of illegal activities and aiding in the consummation of a crime for the death of 92-year-old Evelyn Stepko. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

State police seized an arsenal of new rifles and handguns worth nearly $11,000 from the house of a former Mon Valley police officer who is standing trial in Washington County Court this week for a homicide.

Trooper Charles Morrison testified Thursday that suspect David J. McClelland, 38, also had nearly $2,500 in his car and house at 15 School St., Coal Center, money believed to have been stolen from his neighbor before his father stabbed to death the 92-year-old woman during a robbery in July 2011 in her home in the Granville section of California Borough. Evidence also has been presented that he had a valuable cache of new tools in his shed.

McClelland is on trial before Judge John DiSalle on charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy, burglary, receiving stolen property, dealing in the proceeds of illegal activities and aiding in the consummation of a crime. His father, David A. McClelland, 58, also of Coal Center, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison in October for killing Evelyn Stepko, and his stepmother, Diane McClelland, 50, was found guilty in the homicide in February. She is awaiting sentencing.

During testimony in the younger McClelland’s trial Thursday, prosecutors played a taped statement he gave to state police in July 2011 in which he admitted his father had been supplying him with $2,000 a month and that he knew his father had been stealing the money from Stepko.

Washington County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas displayed large projected images of the rifles and handguns authorities found in David J. McClelland’s small, cluttered house, where they also found a new flat-screen television, golf clubs and a safe containing more than $2,000 in musty bills. There was an AK-style rifle on the floor beside his bed and two long rifles placed in a nearby corner, according to testimony. Another assortment of handguns was found in a dresser drawer.

His newer Pontiac G6 sported tires on expensive rims. He had a new deck built on the side of his house and a fenced-in dog run erected beside the shed. Also inside that storage building police found a new commercial vacuum, a large amount of fireworks, expensive wrenches, a laser level kit and a trail camera.

McClelland had been working for about three weeks as a part-time police officer in Washington Township, Fayette County, when he was arrested in the case.

Prior to that he worked as a part-time patrolman in Monongahela from March 2008 until April 2011, when he agreed to resign at a time when his job performance had begun to suffer, Monongahela police Chief Brian Tempest said in court. Tempest said the officer earned $1,800 in 2011 and $26,000 the prior year.

Tempest said McClelland was a “military-type” officer who followed orders and worked a lot of overtime until he began to experience money problems and the city started to hear from his bill collectors.

“It seemed like he was always preoccupied,” Tempest said.

Before the officer resigned, he paid 10 officers $100 apiece to fill his shifts, Tempest said.

He said McClelland suddenly came up with the money to pay down the loan for his vehicle after a man contacted the department to make repossession arrangements. The officer explained to his boss that his father gave him the money after winning a large jackpot at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township.

State police Trooper Jeff Trypus, however, later testified the three McClellands had dropped thousands of dollars at the casino in 2010 and 2011 without any of them winning a jackpot. The three actually lost money on most of their visits to the slot machines, Trypus said, citing records from their player cards.

Meanwhile, Stepko was described by her neighbors who took the witness stand as a private, frugal woman who lived alone and was seen most mornings brushing her teeth in her back yard, using water she drew from a hand pump.

Stepko was found stabbed to death July 18, 2011, at the foot of her basement stairs after a neighbor telephoned Washington County 911 over their concerns about not seeing her outside as usual.

“I just kept an eye out for her,” neighbor Loretta Nairn said.

Stepko’s friend Cheryl Jurik, who often drove the victim on errands, said she went to the house that morning after receiving a call.

“I knew there was something wrong,” said Jurik, of Daisytown, before she started to cry.

The trial is expected to resume at 12:30 p.m. today, and the prosecution could rest Monday.

The court-appointed defense attorney, Josh Camson of Washington, said his client is expected to testify.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

View More from this Author



blog comments powered by Disqus