Joann Katrinak: Love and Envy Turn to Revenge

Our previous case was that of Amy Archer-Gilligan, the Connecticut nursing home owner who murdered her residents for money. This week, we look at the tragic death of Joann Katrinak and her infant son, Alex.

Joanne Katrinak

Joann Katrinak was just 23 and had recently escaped a troubled marriage when she met Andy Katrinak in the spring of 1992. The two soon became “an item,” and within two years were married with a small son they named Alex. The couple lived in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, a small town north of Allentown.

Andy and Joann Katrinak
Andy and Joann Katrinak

On December 15, 1994, Joann called her mother-in-law and said she’d be coming over and bringing baby Alex. She never arrived. Nor was she at home when Andy Katrinak returned from work. Andy found that someone had wrenched their basement’s exterior door open and cut the phone line. (In 1994, cell phones weren’t ubiquitous; most homes still had landlines.)

Joann and Alex Katrinak

When Joann’s car turned up in a parking lot close to the Katrinak home, police treated it as a crime scene. They found several blonde hairs (Joann was a brunette), some of which, upon closer examination, had blood on them.

Joann Katrinak Found Dead

Four months passed before a farmer plowing his fields came across a discarded bundle of clothing. Upon closer examination, he determined it was not simply clothing but a badly decomposed human body. Rather, two bodies, for on top of the dead woman’s abdomen was the body of an infant. Joann and Alex were missing no longer.

The house and 740 Front Street, Catasauqua Borough, PA, where the Katrinaks lived
The house and 740 Front Street, Catasauqua Borough, PA, where the Katrinaks lived

Andy Katrinak remembered that three days before she disappeared, Joann had answered a call from one of his ex-girlfriends, Patricia Rorrer. The two argued, and Joann slammed the phone down (landline, remember?). Rorrer had also once managed a riding stable near where the bodies were found. It began to look like it would be worth questioning Patricia Rorrer.

Patricia Rorrer in court during her trial (The Morning Call)
Patricia Rorrer in court during her trial (The Morning Call)

Patricia denied any involvement in the murders and offered several alibis, at least one of which was demonstrably false. Several clues pointed to her as the kidnapper and killer, but the clincher was the blonde hairs found in Joann’s car and on her body. Although Rorrer, like Joann, a brunette, at the time Joann and Alex disappeared, it was bleached blonde. Mitochondrial DNA proved that the hairs were Rorrer’s.

In March 1998, a jury returned two guilty verdicts for murder and two for kidnapping. She was sentenced to two life terms.

Epilogue

Patricia Rorrer maintains her innocence and has made several appeals, all of which have failed. The Innocence Project has declined to take her case.

Despite the evidence against her, Rorrer has her advocates. One of them, Tammy Mal, published a book on the case, Convenient Suspect, that promotes the theory Rorrer was wrongly convicted.

Patricia Rorrer prison mugshot (Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)

Today (2023), Rorrer resides at the State Correctional Institution – Muncy in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.

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