Is the wrong person serving a pair of life sentences for the 1994 kidnapping and killing of Pennsylvania mother Joann Katrinak and her 3-month-old son, Alex?
This Sunday, Investigation Discovery and velvety-voiced Dateline NBC correspondent Keith Morrison will revisit the double-homicide. The case rocked Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley — and resulted in the conviction of Patricia Rorrer, now 53, the ex-girlfriend of Katrinak’s husband.
“This is a genuine puzzler,” Morrison tells PEOPLE about the case that inspired Sunday’s two-part special, Murder in Lehigh Valley: Keith Morrison Investigates. “It’s one of those stories where, if you listen to one side, you can see, absolutely, that that side has to be correct. Then you listen to the other side, and it’s like, ‘Wait a minute.’ This case will live with you for a while after you have seen the story, because it is one that has stuck with me.”
The show — which debuts March 5 at both 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET — features interviews with all the key players from the 1998 trial of Rorrer, who is currently behind bars. (In an exclusive clip, Morrison questions the tactics of prosecutor Michael McIntyre.)
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Joann and Alex Katrinak both vanished in 1994. Investigators initially keyed in on Katrinak’s husband, Andrew, who’d told police he thought someone broke into his house, cut the telephone line and abducted his wife and son.
Joann Katrinak’s car was later found next door in the parking lot of a local tavern. Both bodies were found four months later along a rural trail close to where Rorrer used to ride horses. After eliminating Andrew as a suspect in the killings, detectives set their sights on Rorrer, charging her with two counts of murder and kidnapping.
Medical examiners determined Katrinak had been beaten and shot. Alex’s cause of death has never been determined.
Rorrer and Andrew broke off their relationship in 1990, but they remained in regular contact even as Rorrer moved 800 miles away. Shortly before Katrinak and Alex disappeared, Rorrer called the Katrinak house. Joann answered and told Rorrer to leave her family alone before hanging up. Investigators suspect this action triggered Rorrer’s jealous rage, driving her to kill.
The case against Rorrer relied heavily on six hairs recovered from Joann Katrinak’s car as well as two strands that were found where the bodies had been dumped. DNA testing showed that Rorrer could not be excluded as the source of the hairs.
Rorrer has long maintained her innocence, insisting she’s has been framed.
She currently has an appeal pending in Pennsylvania Superior Court.
“It is one of those completely addictive tales where there’s so much that just points in both directions,” Morrison tells PEOPLE. “It is similar to Making a Murderer … it just makes you want to learn more.”
Morrison did speak with Rorrer about the case, but cameras were barred from the prison.
“She has been telling the same story for over 20 years,” Morrison explains. “She has never deviated. She is as effective at telling a story today as she was back then. She’s utterly believable. It makes you crazy, because you challenge her with every allegation, and she acquits herself. The prosecutor in this case is so vehemently determined she is guilty that at the end of the day, you are reeling. For every fact that is presented, there are two interpretations to give.”
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Sunday’s special is the first of at least two Morrison is working on with Investigation Discovery, who he says “have given me unlimited freedom to look into cases that interest me.”
Ever the neutral newsman, Morrison tells PEOPLE he came away from working on the Investigation Discovery special with more questions than answers. Does he think Rorrer is a killer or a victim of a miscarriage of justice?
“I’m still on the fence, but boy do I ever want to find the answers!”
Murder in Lehigh Valley: Keith Morrison Investigates airs this Sunday, March 5 at 8pm on Investigation Discovery and is produced by NBC News’ Peacock Productions.