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Trial expected to open Wednesday in Coal Center woman's murder

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Opening arguments are expected to begin Wednesday morning in the trial of a California Borough man accused of robbing and killing a 92-year-old neighbor.

A jury of seven men and five women, with two female alternates, was chosen in Washington County this week in the criminal homicide trial of David J. McClelland, 37, a part-time Washington Township police officer at the time of the murder.

Evelyn Stepko was found dead July 18, 2011, at the bottom of the basement stairs of her Coal Center home by police after neighbors reported they hadn't seen her for several days. She died of two stab wounds to the neck — one sliced her jugular vein — and blunt-force trauma to the chest, which resulted in several broken ribs, according to the county coroner.

Prosecutors believe David J. McClelland and his father, David A. McClelland, burglarized Stepko's home several times in recent years. She kept large amounts of cash in the modest house where she had lived all of her life, police said. Investigators said they recovered about $82,000 in currency from Stepko's home after her death.

David A. McClelland, 58, has 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 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.

David J. McClelland 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.

Diane McClelland, wife of David A. McClelland and stepmother of David J. McClelland, was convicted last month of conspiracy to commit homicide, receiving stolen property, hindering apprehension or prosecution, dealing with proceeds of unlawful activities and criminal conspiracy.

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

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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