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IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT?

On December 15, 1994, 26-year-old Joann Katrinak and her three-month-old son, Alex, vanished from their Catasauqua, Pennsylvania home. The upsetting story took an even darker turn four months later, on April 9, 1995, when their lifeless bodies were discovered in a secluded patch of woods, 14 miles away. The gruesome details revealed a shocking reality: Joann had endured a brutal assault, suffering 19 blunt-force blows to her head before being shot in the face with a .22 caliber firearm. Baby Alex was found on his mother’s stomach, likely dead from exposure. This heinous crime sent shockwaves through the Lehigh Valley and reverberated throughout Pennsylvania.

image of Joann and Alex Katrinak
Joann and Alex Katrinak
image of Patty Rorrer crying after her guilty verdict
March 6, 1998, Patty crying after the guilty verdicts

In June 1997, Patricia Lynne Rorrer, a North Carolina woman, was arrested for the shocking crime. Rorrer had previously been in a relationship with Andy Katrinak, Joann’s husband, living together from 1984 to 1989. The motive, according to the Commonwealth, was rooted in Rorrer’s anger over a phone call which Joann had abruptly hung up on her. According to the prosecution, Rorrer managed to execute an intricate plan, traveling over 500 miles each way without detection. She broke into the Katrinak residence, abducted Joann and her son Alex, and murdered them in the patch of woods.

At trial, evidence was shown that Patty Rorrer was a DNA match to crime-related hairs; it indisputably connected her to the murders. On March 6, 1998, a jury convicted Patty Rorrer of the two aggravated murders. During the penalty phase the prosecution asked the jury to impose the death penalty. By a 12 – 0 vote, the jury instead gave Rorrer a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Judges for Justice believes Patty Rorrer is innocent. But in the end, that is for the good people of the Lehigh Valley to decide.  There are compelling doubts concerning the credibility of the hair evidence. Specifically, there are concerns regarding whether the hairs examined by the FBI lab in 1997 can be definitively linked to those discovered on Joann’s car seat in 1994. Furthermore, Walter Traupman, an eyewitness who stated he saw an altercation between Joann Katrinak and her husband, Andy, on December 15, 1994, was not disclosed to the Rorrer defense and his letter to the lead investigator was destroyed, raising serious questions about the fairness (due process) of the proceedings.

a photograph of of Walter Traupman
Undated photo of Walter Traupman

A human hair, approximately five inches in length, was discovered clenched in Joann Katrinak’s right hand, while a torn-off fingernail was found on the her chest. Strikingly, neither the hair nor the fingernail has undergone mitochondrial DNA testing to date. Judges for Justice strongly asserts that DNA testing on both the hair and the fingernail will reveal a critical connection – they originate from the same individual, and this individual is not Patty Rorrer. Essentially, this DNA testing will establish:

1. Patty Rorrer’s complete innocence, and
2. the identification of the actual killer.

image of the Fingernail fragment found on Joann's chest
Fingernail fragment found on Joann's chest
forensic image of hair evidence
This approximate 5” hair was found clutched in Joann’s right hand.

Watch the three-minute trailer for IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT?

In Episode 1, 41-minutes long, we give an overview of the crime and Judges for Justice. We discuss three pieces of crime-scene evidence never tested for DNA. Additionally, we look at FBI studies of violent crime and the importance of conducting a thorough victimology. Further, we introduce two important witnesses who did not testify at trial. Lastly, we see an FBI memorandum that states the car seat hairs had, “no roots attached.”

Watch below Episode 1 “A Shocking Crime” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT?

In the 47-minute Episode 2, we explain some basics of “evidence,” like the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. We go over the crime scene evidence, autopsy report, witness statements, a cut phone line, and the unlikelihood that the abduction took place at the Katrinak home. A key fact is the killer was probably in the small group of people who knew where Andy and Joann Katrinak lived. The evidence indicates there may have been two killers – one male, one female. We identify two persons of interest – one male, one female – who were never investigated by the police. The female had blonde hair and a prior “brief intimate relationship” with Andy Katrinak. The male has a long criminal history, was mentally ill, and had poor impulse control.

Watch below Episode 2 “The Early Evidence” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT?

In Episode 3, we delve into the impact of fear within a community, shedding light on its role as a catalyst for wrongful convictions. Specifically, we explore the subconscious force of “tunnel vision” and its perverse byproduct: the phenomenon known as “noble cause corruption.” We examine how the lab contamination of hair evidence and the infamous OJ Simpson acquittal may have caused officials to engage in noble cause corruption.

 

Furthermore, we discuss the subconscious influence of “confirmation bias” in this case. It explains why three pieces of crime-scene evidence were never tested for DNA: a torn-off fingernail found on the victim’s chest, a strand of hair clutched in her right hand, and a seemingly overlooked cigarette butt. We discuss how the failure to DNA test the crime-scene evidence has helped convict an innocent woman and allowed the real killer to go unpursued, free to kill again.

Episode 3 “Noble Cause Corruption” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT?

Episodes 4 through 8 are not finished. Below is each episode with a projected release date. If you would like immediate notice of the release of an episode, please subscribe to Judges for Justice’s YouTube channel. You can do this by Googling “Judges for Justice YouTube channel,” click on the link, then hit the “SUBSCRIBE” button.

Episode 4 “The Trial of Patty Rorrer” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT? – is planned for release in early 2024.

Episode 5 “no roots attached” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT? – is planned for release in early 2024.

Episode 6 “Witness Walter Traupman” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT? -is planned for release in spring 2024.

Episode 7 “What We Think Happened” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT? – is planned for release in spring 2024.

Episode 8 “A Path to Justice: Test the Evidence” – IS PATTY RORRER INNOCENT? – is planned for release in summer 2024.

The planned release dates are estimates.