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Trial set in Coal Center murder case

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

A Coal Center woman who authorities claim went on a shopping spree with thousands of dollars her husband and stepson stole from the 92-year-old neighbor the men murdered faces trial this week.

Jury selection was to begin Monday in the trial of Diane McClelland, 50, of 16 School St.

The trial comes a year after she was ordered to stand trial on a charge of criminal conspiracy to commit homicide for her alleged role in the death of Evelyn Stepko.

McClelland is also charged with receiving stolen property, hindering apprehension or prosecution, dealing with proceeds of unlawful activities, and criminal conspiracy.

On Oct. 15, her husband, David A. McClelland, 58, pleaded guilty to criminal homicide, burglary, robbery/inflicting serious bodily injury, theft by unlawful taking, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and three counts of conspiracy.

He was sentenced to life in prison without chance for parole for the murder conviction and 21 years, four months to 42 years, eight months on the other charges.

He was ordered to pay $215,800 to Stepko's estate.

By accepting the plea, he avoided a possible death penalty.

His son, David J. McClelland, 37 – a part-time Washington Township police officer at the time of the murder – is charged with criminal homicide, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, receiving stolen property, aiding in the consummation of a crime and three counts of conspiracy.

Washington County Assistant District Attorney Mike Lucas said David J. McClelland might go on trial in April or May.

Trying David J. McClelland and Diane McClelland at the same time would have potentially violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Lucas said. The clause involves defendants' rights to confront accusers and witnesses against them.

Police found Stepko's body July 18, 2011, in the basement of her School Street home. Stepko died of two stab wounds to the neck and blunt-force trauma to the chest.

Prosecutors believe the men had burglarized Stepko's home several times. She kept large amounts of cash in the house, police said.

They allege Diane McClelland received and spent thousands of dollars in proceeds from the robberies.

Diane McClelland told authorities her husband won $85,000 on a private lottery, nearly $25,000 at a casino in Massachusetts, and $5,500 at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township.

But at her preliminary hearing, state Trooper Louis J. Serafini testified that records at The Meadows indicated the McClellands actually lost $2,907.85.

Serafini also testified last year that Diane McClelland paid nearly $44,000 in cash for a 2009 Lincoln Navigator on June 28, 2010, and $11,750 in cash for a Pontiac G-6 on Sept. 9, 2010, “gifting” that vehicle to her son in March 2011.

Diane McClelland also made deposits totaling more than $53,000 in cash from June through September 2010, Serafini testified.

Diane McClelland first told state police she had no knowledge of the alleged burglaries, later indicating she knew of one of the crimes. Diane McClelland reportedly told police she asked her husband to return money he stole from Stepko.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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