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N. Braddock man held in mother-in-law's killing

Informant says death followed sex with victim

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

By Michael A. Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Hours before family and friends paid their last respects to Lynda McClelland yesterday, Allegheny County police took the first step in prosecuting her son-in-law as the person who killed her nearly three years ago.

David Repasky, 25, of North Braddock, is taken back to jail after his arraignment yesterday in connection with the slaying of his mother-in-law, Lynda McClelland, in July 2000. (Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette)

Officials said an unnamed informant told investigators last week that David Repasky, 25, of North Braddock, told him he had killed McClelland, 44, in her Forest Hills home on July 27, 2000, after they had sex and she threatened to tell her daughter -- his wife -- about it.

When Repasky responded by striking McClelland, she said she would call police. That prompted Repasky to choke her and then, seeing she was still alive, to brace himself against the door jamb and step on her neck, the informant told detectives, according to an affidavit supporting Repasky's arrest.

Repasky was arrested in the Allegheny County Jail, where he had been since he surrendered to state police Friday on charges he was part of a professional burglary and robbery ring in southwestern Pennsylvania.

By coincidence, Friday also was the day police converged on sparsely populated Quarry Street in Wilkins and searched and dug until nearly nightfall before finding McClelland's body wrapped in plastic bags and buried about 3 feet underground on a wooded hillside near the border with Chalfant. The property where the body was buried is next door to the home of Elizabeth Wall, whose grandson, Donald Wall, 26, of Turtle Creek, also was among those charged in the burglary ring.

At a news conference yesterday announcing Repasky's arrest in the McClelland case, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Kenneth Fulton said Repasky was not aware police were acting on an informant's tip that he was the murderer when he turned himself in to police on the burglary ring charges.

The arrest understandably made yesterday's visitation by McClelland's family and friends at the Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home in East Pittsburgh that much more difficult.

Neither Amanda Repasky -- McClelland's daughter and Repasky's wife -- nor her family had suspected him in the killing. The couple, who have three children, wed a month before the killing.

Repasky had helped his wife post fliers and search the woods for her mother, who had a history of mental illness and had threatened in the past to harm herself.

"If he did do it, I hope he has the respect for me and my three children so that he says [to police that] he did it so as not to put us through any more," was all Amanda Repasky would say yesterday.

McClelland's brother, Joseph Cunningham of North Versailles, adamantly dismissed any talk of a sexual relationship between McClelland and Repasky. He said his sister had advised Amanda Repasky to break it off with Repasky because he had "been in trouble" with the law in the past. But she never treated Repasky badly, out of respect for her daughter, and the family never felt any fear of violence from him, Cunningham said.

State Attorney General Mike Fisher on March 10 announced that a grand jury probe had led to charges against 10 people, including Repasky and Wall, in up to 300 crimes at restaurants, clubs and other buildings from mid-2001 to December 2002. On the same day, according to the affidavit, officials received information about the location of a "dead body in Allegheny County." That in turn led authorities to an informant with "firsthand knowledge" of the crime and location of the body.

That informant told detectives on Wednesday that several years earlier he had been awakened by Repasky who said he needed his help. They went to McClelland's home, where she was lying on the living room floor, nude from the waist down. That's when Repasky told him that he had been drunk when he came to McClelland's home and had sex with her before the confrontation that led to her death, the informant said.

The informant said he agreed to help Repasky get rid of the body. They went to the Braddock Hills Giant Eagle and purchased large garbage bags and duct tape. Back at McClelland's they put her body in the bags and sealed them with the tape.

Because day had dawned and they feared being seen moving the body to a car, they took the body to the basement and placed clothes on top of it. They then took a drive looking for somewhere to bury the body. Repasky dropped the informant off at the woods near 146 Quarry St., where the informant spent the day digging the shallow grave.

As night fell he said he saw headlights and learned it was Repasky, who dropped the body by the path and told the informant to bury it. The informant told police he did so and that Repasky told him he went to the site the next day and poured ammonia there in case police used search dogs.

The informant, who took detectives to the burial site on Thursday, will not be charged for any crimes related to the McClelland case, Fulton said.

Fulton said he didn't know whether there had been a sexual relationship between Repasky and McClelland or even if Repasky had raped her. Moreover, he said, Repasky's name had surfaced as a potential suspect during the nearly three-year investigation of McClelland's disappearance "but we never could develop a case against him."

In fact, Fulton said, had it not been for the grand jury probe of the burglary ring, it's likely the crime and body would not have been discovered yet.

Repasky faces a preliminary hearing in the coroner's office next Tuesday.

Michael A. Fuoco can be reached at mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.

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