Where We Live: Crimes worthy of TV shows
By RON GOWER
Since the pandemic began, I’ve been watching much more TV than I ever had.
Being trapped inside most of the day has introduced me to such shows as “Forensic Files,” “Dateline,” “Snapped” and some other eye-catching named series that re-enact actual crimes - mostly murders.
Generally the shows are about incidents in faraway places such as a wife killing her husband in the Everglades, a body disposed in the Nevada desert or a cheating spouse in a small Kansas town getting revenge. Local areas are rarely mentioned. That’s because we live in an area where major crime seldom occurs. Or so it seems.
Over the years, our immediate area has had sensational criminal events including murders. Some of those are so intense that they are worthy of being featured on one of those shows.
The only one I’ve seen on TV with local reaches was on “Forensic Files.” It happened in Catasauqua, with the victims’ bodies found in a rural area of Heidelberg Township.
On Dec. 15, 1994, Joann Katrinak, 26, and her 3-year-old son, Alex, disappeared from their Catasauqua home. They were found four months later in a field in Heidelberg Township. Katrinak was shot in the face. The baby died either by suffocation or exposure while lying on his mother’s stomach.
Patricia Rorrer, 52, of North Carolina was convicted of the crime.
Rorrer was a past girlfriend of Katrinak’s husband, Andrew. She had formerly lived in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. DNA tests shows that strands of hair found at the crime scene and in Joann Katrinak’s car matched Rorrer’s hair. “Forensic Files” says those strands were vital in the conviction of Rorrer.
Here’s some other horrific crime cases that either occurred locally or had other connecting circumstances:
One of the most publicized trials to happen in Carbon County since the Molly Maguires era involved the death of a 14-year-old Nesquehoning girl in 1939.
On the night of June 5, two state motor police officers went to Nesquehoning to meet grammar school student Joan Stevens, who had contacted them and offered to provide information on local robberies.
The troopers included Cpl. Benjamin Franklin. They picked up the girl in front of a Nesquehoning gas station. According to records, the police said Stevens pulled what was believed to be an automatic pistol and threatened to kill Franklin. He responded by shooting eight bullets into the girl. The gun Stevens reportedly had was just a 10-cent cap pistol.
Though he was charged with murder, Franklin was found innocent on the basis of self-defense.
In 1965, a well-known Carbon County attorney was found hanging in the bedroom of his Summit Hill home. He and his brother were free on bail at the time awaiting charges they helped a well-known Philadelphia burglar king, George Bricker, break into a residence in the borough.
Bricker, who was in his late 20s, was a Philadelphia hairdresser who masterminded a string of break-ins in Carbon County and other areas.
The hanging was ruled a suicide, although newspaper reports said there was no necktie, rope or wire found in the bedroom. It was also reported there was blood on the bedroom floor.
Bricker had been at the residence just before the death. It was Bricker who said he cut the attorney down. He said he ripped the shirt of the attorney while trying to give him artificial respiration.
Although Bricker was best-remembered in the county for the burglary ring, it also is recalled that he masterminded a plot to buy the elections of a Carbon County judge and a district attorney in exchange for them looking the other way at widespread gambling activities in the area.
In January 1991, Tanya Dacri, 20, of Philadelphia, reported her infant son was kidnapped from her arms by two men in a Philadelphia parking lot.
The next day, dismembered remains of 2-month-old Zachary Dacri were found in a creek in Parryville, just below the Parryville Dam. The dam was partially frozen. There were also body parts found in containers in the Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County.
The same evening that Zachary’s remains were found, his parents, Tanya and her husband, Phillip, 22, were arrested. They were found guilty of drowning the son, dismembering the body, and dumping the remains from turnpike bridges into the two creeks.
Another interesting event happened on Sunday morning, July 1, 1990. Philip Roman was an inmate in the Carbon County Prison, which was then housed on West Broadway in Jim Thorpe. While in the outdoor recreation area, a gunman in a surrounding, wooded area opened fire and killed Roman.
A massive manhunt ensued throughout the day. At one point, police thought they were closing in on the individual.
Little did they know that the killer was a cellmate of Roman who was released on furlough from the prison that morning. After the shooting, he was picked up by an individual and driven to Penn Forest Township. While the search was happening, the killer, Charles Holland Jr., 36, wasn’t even in the vicinity. He was arrested the next day.
And who can forget Robert “Mudman” Simon.
Simon, a member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Warlocks motorcycle gang, was convicted in 1974 for the murder of his girlfriend, Beth Smith Dusenberg, a 19-year-old stenographer. They were at a party in Jim Thorpe when Simon ordered her to have sex with other gang members. She refused so he took her to a remote location in Carbon County and killed her.
He served 20 years in prison but was free after that for only 11 weeks. In 1995, he was back behind bars after killing a New Jersey police officer. He was suspected of other murders, including a prison killing. On Sept. 7, 1999, violence caught up with Simon when he was beaten to death in prison during a bloody fistfight with another inmate.