Dateline NBC’s Keith Morrison Explores Claims of a Wrongful Conviction in Investigation Discovery’s “Murder in Lehigh Valley”

In June of 2016 Patricia Rorrer’s petition for a new trial was been thrown out. The bodies of Joann Katrinak and her baby were found in a wooded area of Heidelberg Township in 1994. Rorrer was convicted of killing them four years later.

On December 15, 1994, Joann Katrinak and her three-month-old son Alex disappeared without a trace from their home in Catasauqua, Pa. Patricia Rorrer, the ex-girlfriend of Katrinak’s husband, was convicted of the murders and has maintained her innocence for 20 years while serving life behind bars. Today, her attorney says not only was his client wrongfully convicted, but she was framed.

With an appeal pending in Pennsylvania Superior Court that includes allegations of a frame-up, coercion by the District Attorney’s office, misidentification of a witness and evidence tampering – all of which the state vehemently denies – veteran journalist and “Dateline NBC” correspondent Keith Morrison revisits the crimes in an all-new special MURDER IN LEHIGH VALLEY: KEITH MORRISON INVESTIGATES.

Produced by NBC News’ Emmy Award-winning production arm Peacock Productions, the two-part special airs Sunday, March 5 with back-to-back premieres at 8/7c and 9/8c, and features an exclusive phone interview in which Rorrer speaks out from prison for the first time ever.

Today, her attorney says not only was his client wrongfully convicted, but she was framed. With an appeal pending in Pennsylvania Superior Court that includes allegations of a frame-up, coercion by the District Attorney’s office, misidentification of a witness and evidence tampering – all of which the state vehemently denies – veteran journalist and “Dateline NBC” correspondent Keith Morrison revisits the crimes in an all-new special MURDER IN LEHIGH VALLEY: KEITH MORRISON INVESTIGATES.

“This is an incendiary case that continues to provoke passion on both sides,” said Morrison. “As we wait for the pending appeal, Rorrer shares her first-hand account and I talk with the prosecutor and law enforcement about the new allegations that have thrust this case back into the spotlight.”

ABOUT THE CASE

Following the disappearance of Joann and Alex Katrinak, Joann’s husband Andrew told police he believed someone had broken into his house, cut the telephone line and abducted his wife and son. Joann’s car was later found next door in the parking lot of a local tavern. Although police initially focused on Andrew as a suspect, they ruled him out and suspicion turned toward his ex-girlfriend Patricia Rorrer four months later, when Joann and Alex’s bodies were discovered on a rural trail near where Patricia used to ride horses. While baby Alex’s cause of death has never been determined, Joann had been severely beaten and shot.

After Patricia and Andrew broke up in 1990, she moved back to North Carolina but the two remained in touch through sporadic visits and phone calls. Shortly before Joann and Alex disappeared, Patricia called the Katrinak house. Joann answered and told Patricia to leave them alone before forcibly hanging up. Investigators theorized that this action angered Patricia into a jealous rage that ended with abduction and murder.

Six hairs recovered from Joann’s car and two from the site where the bodies were discovered became the main evidence used against Patricia. DNA testing showed that Patricia could not be excluded as the source of the hairs and according to the prosecution that, combined with circumstantial evidence, was enough to convict her. A three-year investigation culminated in court on March 6, 1998, with Patricia being convicted on two counts of murder and two counts of kidnapping. She was sentenced to two life terms in prison without parole. Patricia has always maintained her innocence.

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