Conviction appealed in Stepko killing
A Washington County sheriff’s deputy waits for David James McClelland to exit a vehicle prior to a preliminary hearing in Central Court in August 2011.
Order a Print
The attorney for David James McClelland is asking the court to review his client’s conviction and life sentence in the burglaries and July 2011 killing of an elderly Coal Center woman.
Attorney Josh Camson argued in his post-trial motions Friday afternoon before Washington County Judge John DiSalle that errors were made during the trial and that insufficient evidence led to the second-degree murder verdict against the former part-time police officer.
Camson acknowledged that McClelland admitted to receiving stolen money from multiple burglaries by his father at the home of 92-year-old Evelyn Stepko. However, Camson said there was no evidence that showed his client participated in Stepko’s murder, for which his father, David A. McClelland, 58, pleaded guilty in October 2012.
“If anything, he was an accomplice to receive finances from previous burglaries,” Camson said, “but not the final burglary that led to the homicide.”
In addition to second-degree murder, McClelland, 38, of Coal Center, was convicted April 9 of receiving stolen property, conspiracy and dealing in unlawful proceeds of criminal activity.
DiSalle disagreed that McClelland’s participation was limited only to accepting stolen money and noted the younger McClelland continued to ask for more, even though he knew of his father’s criminal activity.
“He asked his father for more money, knowing where it came from,” DiSalle said. “Isn’t that promoting more burglaries?”
Camson also argued that testimony about McClelland’s work as a part-time police officer “inflamed the jury” and could have been used to form a prejudiced opinion about the defendant. But DiSalle disputed that assertion and pointed to evidence that the elder McClelland called his son while he was working a patrol shift to see if a burglary was reported to police.
“An inference for that could be he was a lookout … to see what police activity was out there,” DiSalle said.
McClelland viewed the hearing by video conference from SCI-Greene while wearing a brown prison jumpsuit. He declined to testify at Friday afternoon’s hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Lucas, who prosecuted the case, said he saw no evidence that would indicate the conviction or sentence should be overturned.
“It’s not an invitation for the court to second-guess a jury’s decision when the facts were presented,” Lucas said.
He disagreed with Camson’s suggestion that the younger McClelland helped investigators or showed remorse over Stepko’s stabbing death. Lucas said state police interviews showed McClelland gave only limited information until confronted with more evidence.
DiSalle echoed that sentiment.
“His cooperation was always limited,” DiSalle said. “And I didn’t see remorse for the victim, but remorse for getting caught.”
DiSalle is expected to make a ruling later this month on McClelland’s post-trial motions. He also will release his decision on similar motions by McClelland’s stepmother, Diane McClelland, who was convicted on a variety of charges in the burglaries and killing.