McClelland convicted in death of Washington County neighbor
A Washington County jury on Tuesday rejected a former policeman's claim that he had nothing to do with killing his 92-year-old neighbor and convicted him of second-degree murder.
Jurors deliberated for slightly more than two hours before finding David J. “D.J.” McClelland, 38, of California, guilty of second-degree murder, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, receiving stolen property, aiding in the consummation of a crime and three counts of conspiracy.
McClelland, who was working as a part-time Washington Township policeman at the time of his arrest, will serve a life sentence without the chance at parole for the murder of Evelyn Stepko, whose home was repeatedly burglarized by the McClelland family.
Police testified the McClelland family stole more than $200,000 that Stepko kept hidden throughout her modest home. They spent it on property, vehicles, hunting equipment, a swimming pool, an outdoor jacuzzi and gambling sprees.
Stepko was found dead July 18, 2011, in the basement of her Coal Center home after police went there because neighbors reported not seeing her for several days.
Immediately after the verdict, Stepko's niece, Dolores Sprowls, hugged state police Trooper Louis Serafini in the hallway outside Judge John F. DiSalle's courtroom. McClelland's father, David A. McClelland, 58, pleaded guilty to the burglaries and murder, and his stepmother, Diane McClelland, 50, was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to commit homicide and receiving stolen property.
“I'm happy; the family is happy. I'm glad all three got what they deserve. He could have saved Aunt Evelyn if he had turned in his father,” Sprowls said.
Sprowls said she plans to testify at McClelland's formal sentencing hearing in 90 days.
“I plan to tell D.J., ‘You were a cop, and cops are supposed to protect people,'” she said.
Stepko died of two stab wounds in the neck and of blunt-force trauma of the chest, which resulted in several broken ribs, according to testimony. One wound sliced her jugular vein.
First Assistant District Attorney Michael Lucas told jurors that McClelland and his father burglarized Stepko's home several times in the years before her death, stealing more than $200,000 in cash.
“D.J.” McClelland testified that he spent some of that cash, even though he knew it was stolen from Stepko. He claimed his father was the sole burglar who repeatedly preyed upon Stepko.
Investigators said they found about $82,000 in Stepko's home after the slaying.
David A. McClelland pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder, burglary, robbery, theft by unlawful taking, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and three counts of conspiracy to avoid the death penalty.
He is serving a life sentence for the murder conviction and up to 42 years in prison on the other charges.
Diane McClelland was convicted last month of conspiracy to commit homicide and receiving stolen property. She faces a potential prison term of up to 74 years.
Defense attorney Josh Camson said he plans an appeal because there was insufficient evidence for a murder conviction against “D.J.” McClelland.
Chris Buckley and Paul Peirce are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Buckley can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- The real Captain Phillips brings story of piracy to St. Vincent College
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Foundation arranges free maid service for women with cancer
- Komen acceptance of drilling-linked money raises ire
- No. 4 Highlands wraps up perfect regular season
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo has no hard feelings after failing to make roster
- Penn Avenue site tops group’s preservation list
- Police investigate 2 shootings in Washington County, one of them fatal
- America’s manufacturing comeback
- Predators winger Neal caught ‘blindsided’ by trade from Penguins