Jurors see interrogation of California man accused in crimes against elderly woman
David J. McClelland will take the stand in a Washington County courtroom next week, but jurors got to hear from the California Borough man in a series of video clips shown to them on Friday.
The clips were taken during his three-hour interrogation by state police on Aug. 9, 2011.
They heard him give conflicting versions of what he knew about burglaries at the home of his neighbor Evelyn Stepko, 92, who was found murdered at the bottom of her basement steps on July 18, 2011.
McClelland, 38, is charged with criminal homicide, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, receiving stolen property, aiding in the commission of a crime, and three counts of conspiracy in the trial before Judge John DiSalle.
His father, David A. McClelland, 58, last year pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Stepko's death and has been imprisoned for life without parole.
Diane McClelland, wife of David A. McClelland and stepmother of David J. McClelland, was convicted last month of conspiracy to commit homicide and receiving stolen property for scheming with her husband to repeatedly steal cash that Stepko kept hidden in her modest home until she was fatally stabbed.
Police allege that the McClellands took more than $200,000 from Stepko between 2009 and 2011.
They allege the younger McClelland was part of the conspiracy to steal Stepko's cash and eventually kill her.
Retired state police trooper James McElhaney, who is now chief of the Washington County detective unit, testified on Friday that he interviewed the younger McClelland.
He watched the black-and-white video with the jury as McClelland initially says he had an inkling that his father was committing the burglaries. Then he says his father confessed to the burglaries in 2011.
He later says his father admitted in 2010 he burglarized Stepko's home.
“I asked him why he would do this and he said, ‘I need to help my family,'” McClelland says in the video. “I said, ‘You know what kind of position you put me in?' He said, ‘I'd never do anything to hurt you.'”
“But he did,” McElhaney tells the suspect.
“Yes,” McClelland replies.
When McElhaney asks why McClelland, a former part-time police officer in Washington Township and Monongahela, did not report the crimes, McClelland said he did not want to “rat out” his father.
“You did not want to rat yourself out,” McElhaney says.
“You received stolen money, so you were protecting yourself, not your father.”
McClelland says on the tape that he never asked his father if he was involved in Stepko's death.
Later, he says he questioned his father about it right after the body was discovered.
McClelland, who goes by the nickname “D.J.,” says he received about $22,000 from his father, then later says the amount was closer to $70,000.
Washington Township Police Superintendent Ray Moody told jurors that McClelland worked part time for the department and he did not have to report until midnight on July 18.
The trial will resume Monday.
Chris Buckley and Paul Peirce are staff writers for Trib Total Media.