Washington DA appeals Supreme Court decision vacating homicide verdict in McClelland case
The Washington County District Attorney wants the state Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that overturned a Mon Valley woman’s conviction of conspiracy to commit homicide in the 2011 death of her 92-year-old neighbor. The neighbor was murdered after being repeatedly burglarized by the inmate’s family.
In his appeal to the state Supreme Court on Friday, District Attorney Eugene Vittone contended the Superior Court erred when it allowed Diane M. McClelland to escape liability in the death of Evelyn Stepko, when her co-conspirators’ actions led to Stepko’s murder.
McClelland was convicted in a Washington County trial of conspiracy to commit homicide, but the Superior Court ruled on Feb. 11 there was no specific intent of McClelland conspiring to kill Stepko.
Vittone stated in his appeal, however, that due to the inherent dangerous nature of a home burglary, “it is only right to hold the co-conspirator accountable for the result, even if the result is murder.”
Stepko, a neighbor of McClelland in California Borough, was stabbed to death during a July 2011 burglary in her home by McClelland’s husband, David McClelland.
Prosecutors presented evidence that David McClelland and his son, David J. McClelland, repeatedly burglarized the Stepko house for two years before the murder. Evidence showed that Diane McClelland received money from the burglaries and that about $54,000 deposited into her bank account could not be linked to legal income.
McClelland, who is serving a 24-to-49-year sentence in state prison, also had sentences vacated in her conviction on charges of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity, receiving stolen property, hindering apprehension and conspiracy to commit homicide, burglary and theft. She was sentenced to 20-to-40 years on the conspiracy to commit homicide charge.
David McClelland pleaded guilty to murdering Stepko and died in prison. His son, David J. McClelland, was found guilty in Stepko’s death and is serving a life sentence at SCI-Greene.
Diane McClelland’s initial appeal of her sentence was denied in 2015.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .