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New trial sought in Stepko slaying case

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 1:06 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
David J. McClelland of California is escorted by deputy sheriffs on April 3, 2013, from the Washington County Courthouse, where he is on trial for the murder of Evelyn Stepko of Coal Center in July 2011.
Diane McClelland, was found guility on all counts. . She was ordered to stand trail 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 the proceeds of unlawful activities and criminal conspiracy. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

A former Mon Valley police officer's attorney wants his client's April 9 murder conviction to be overturned.

In post-sentence motions, defense attorney Josh Camson claims information about David J. McClelland's profession should not have been part of the burglary and murder trial in Washington County Court.

McClelland, 28, – a former Washington Township and Monongahela officer – was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a life prison sentence for the July 2011 death of Evelyn Stepko, 92, of California.

Washington County Judge John DiSalle has until Thursday to rule on motions, which were filed June 17.

If DiSalle does not rule this week, the motions would automatically be denied, Camson said.

If that happens, Camson would have 30 days to appeal to the state Superior Court.

Police found Stepko dead July 18, 2011, in the basement of her California home after neighbors hadn't seen her for several days. She died of two stab wounds to the neck and blunt-force trauma to the chest.

Three members of the McClelland family took more than $200,000 from Stepko from 2009 through the time of her death. Police investigating the murder found $82,000 in Stepko's home.

David J. McClelland's conviction came weeks after a Washington County jury found his stepmother, Diane McClelland, guilty of conspiracy to commit homicide, receiving stolen property, hindering apprehension or prosecution, dealing with proceeds of unlawful activities and criminal conspiracy.

DiSalle sentenced her to 24 12 to 49 years in prison.

David J. McClelland's father, David A. McClelland, 58, pleaded guilty last year 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 prison term without chance for parole for the murder conviction and up to 42 years on the other charges. By accepting the plea deal, he avoided a possible death penalty.

Camson is seeking a new trial, citing purported errors during the trial and insufficient evidence.

Camson questioned whether the prosecution presented sufficient evidence of a conspiracy or accomplice relationship between McClelland, his father and his stepmother.

“I don't believe the evidence of him being a police officer and his police oath of office should have been entered into evidence,” Camson said.

Camson objected to alleged statements by the victim before her death – and testified to by police and Stepko's neighbors.

The post-sentencing motion and likely appeal were foreshadowed on the day of David J. McClelland's conviction.

Before the verdict was read April 9, Camson leaned over and whispered to his client, “This is just the start of the fight.”

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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