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Restitution hearing held on siblings' missing Hopwood estate items

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A baseball bat autographed by Pittsburgh Pirates great Roberto Clemente would fetch as much as $2,500 from a collector, according to a Connellsville man who testified on Tuesday during a restitution hearing in Fayette County.

The full-size Louisville slugger bat, along with a baseball signed by Clemente, are among the items missing from a Hopwood woman's estate.

Richard Bower, 21, testified the bat would sell for as much as $2,500 and the ball, $1,800. Bower testified he has collected sports memorabilia for about eight years. One of his duties in his former job at Sports Collector Universe in Uniontown Mall included valuing such collectibles, he testified.

A jury on April 10 convicted Marlene Wesolowsky, 49, of Morgantown of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds in connection with the missing items. State Trooper John Marshall filed the charge after Wesolowsky's siblings said the Morgantown woman failed to return the baseball, bat and other collectibles when their mother died in 2004.

The siblings had stored the items in their mother's home in Hopwood. Wesolowsky was appointed administratix of Rosemary Mehall's estate.

One of Wesolowsky's brothers, Michael Mehall of Scottdale, testified during the trial that his missing baseball card collection had a value of $146,805.

The collection of 300,000 cards included a rare, 1952 Topps No. 407 Eddie Mathews Milwaukee Braves card that Mehall valued at $10,000.

Mehall told jurors during the trial that Wesolowsky threatened in August 2007 to burn the collection. He said he still has not learned what happened to the cards.

On Tuesday, sister Ralene Debord of Wexford testified her missing doll collection included two porcelain Cabbage Patch dolls valued at $299 each and 20 Zapf dolls valued at $200 each.

She testified 40 Morgan silver dollars valued at $9,000 are missing, along with a mink coat she valued at $5,000 and various pieces of her mother's jewelry, including a cluster ring purchased 20 years ago for $1,000.

Most of the knives she said she purchased for her late father's collection over a period of years is missing, she testified. She valued eight of the knives at $200 each.

Asked by defense attorney David Kaiser of Uniontown if she had any receipts for the knives, DeBord said she did not because “I never expected them to be taken.”

Vernon did not immediately determine a restitution amount, indicating she will finalize the number in time for Wesolowsky's sentencing hearing on May 8.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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