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Final Stepko slay trial starts this week

| Monday, April 1, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

Before she went to trial last month, prosecutors offered Diane McClelland a plea bargain deal on conspiracy and other charges that would have carried a 10- to 20-year sentence.

She declined it, and a Washington County jury found the Coal Center woman guilty of all counts for her role in the murder of her 92-year-old neighbor in 2011.

She now faces 37 to 74 years in prison.

No such plea will be offered to her stepson, David J. McClelland, who goes on trial this week for the 2011 murder of Evelyn Stepko, Washington County Assistant District Attorney Mike Lucas said.

David J. McClelland will turn 28 on Wednesday.

Stepko, was found dead July 18, 2011, in the basement of her School Street, Coal Center, home. Police went there in search of Stepko after neighbors reported not seeing her for several days.

Stepko died of two stab wounds to the neck – one sliced her jugular vein – and of blunt-force trauma to the chest, which resulted in several broken ribs.

Prosecutors claim David J. McClelland and his father, David A. McClelland, burglarized Stepko's home several times in the years before her death.

She kept large amounts of cash in the Spartan house where she had lived all of her life, police said. Investigators said they found about $82,000 in Stepko's home.

David A. McClelland, 58, has already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, burglary, robbery (inflicting serious bodily injury), theft by unlawful taking, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and three counts of conspiracy.

He is serving a life sentence without chance for parole for the murder conviction and up to 42 years on the other charges.

By accepting the plea deal, the elder McClelland avoided a possible death penalty.

David J. McClelland 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.

He was a part-time Washington Township police officer at the time of the murder.

Jury selection was to begin Monday for David J. McClelland's trial.

“We've been scheduled and everybody has been getting ready for trial,” Lucas said late last week.

Prosecutors decided previously not to seek the death penalty in David J. McClelland's case.

However if he is found guilty of second-degree murder, he would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without chance of parole.

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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