Attempted homicide going to trial
An Altoona woman accused of trying to kill her husband and son will face trial.
Blair County prosecutors added a third count of attempted homicide to an already lengthy list of charges against Tracy L. McClellan at her preliminary hearing at Central Court on Wednesday.
The 43-year-old mother of two sat quietly as Altoona police Detective Sgt. Terry Merritts testified about the early morning hours of July 4, when Altoona police were dispatched to the McClellan home in Juniata after she allegedly stabbed her husband four times and tried to kill her 9-year-old son twice.
Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith moved to add a third count of attempted homicide based on allegations that McClellan first tried to smother her son with a pillow before then attempting to kill him with a knife about a half-hour later.
Assistant Public Defender Julia Burke objected and argued the alleged attempts only constitute one charge.
“This is the same person, same night, same course of events,” Burke told Magisterial District Judge Daniel DeAntonio, who ultimately allowed the addition of the third count of attempted homicide as well as a second count of possession of an instrument of crime that Smith said was added because McClellan had two knives in her hands when police arrived.
McClellan was taken into custody about 5 a.m. July 4 after she was hit with a Taser by Altoona police officers who were dispatched to the McClellan home after McClellan’s 15-year-old daughter called 911.
Merritts testified on Wednesday that both the children were interviewed at the Blair County Children’s Advocacy Center and told how McClellan started acting strangely on July 3 before she attacked her sleeping son and husband after pacing the house for hours in the middle of the night.
McClellan and her husband argued, which the 15-year-old daughter told police was unusual.
Also she took them to McDonald’s the day before without the kids asking and bought them breakfast. She also told them to pray to Jesus that they be accepted, Merritts said. Even the fact McClellan and her husband argued was unusual to the kids, Merritts testified, with the 15-year-old saying she only knew of them arguing three or four times before that night.
“Mom was normally a caring mother who took care of the kids,” Merritts said, adding that McClellan’s husband was regarded as a good man who worked to provide for the family.
McClellan allegedly confessed to police and said she thought some unknown person or persons would torture and kill her family and so she decided to kill them to save them from that fate, Merritts testified. The detective noted at some point, McClellan decided her husband was the person who was going to kill her family.
Merritts also noted McClellan’s confession was done in a matter-of-fact tone. Even when she asked what happened to her son and husband after the fact, she didn’t show emotion, he said on the stand.
“There was not a tear shed during the entire interview,” Merritts said, describing McClellan as “devoid of emotion.”
Merritts testified McClellan first tried to smother her son with a pillow and then when he got away, she calmed him down until he fell back asleep. About 30 minutes later, the boy woke up to see his mother over him with a knife pressed against his throat. She held the handle in one hand with the other hand on the blade and pressed it against the boy’s neck, but the boy pushed the knife away and ran and hid in the master bathroom, Merritts told the court.
Merritts testified that McClellan told the boy, “I’m sorry, buddy, but this has to be done,” as she pressed the knife to his neck.
McClellan’s 15-year-old daughter woke up and found her mother in the hall and after a brief exchange where she asked what was going on, McClellan walked down the hall to where her husband was sleeping and proceeded to stab him four times with a large kitchen knife, Merritts said.
McClellan’s husband was stabbed about an inch below his left eye before McClellan plunged the knife into his back three times.
Merritts said the couple’s 15-year-old daughter said she could hear the attack on her father.
“She could hear the chopping noises of the knife and her father yelling, “What are you doing? What are you doing,” Merritts said, noting it was then the girl locked herself in the master bathroom with her brother and called 911.
McClellan’s husband managed to get to a second bathroom to give himself first aid and when police arrived, the daughter sneaked out of the master bathroom to open the front door for officers.
Merritts said the stabbing left the man with a collapsed lung and he required emergency surgery after he was taken to UPMC Altoona. The boy required stitches to his fingers, the detective said.
DeAntonio found there was enough evidence to send the case on to Blair County Court. McClellan remains in Blair County Prison and is scheduled for formal arraignment in Blair County Court in August.