BY REGGE EPISALE
Tammy Malinowski O’Reilly of Union Dale, has loved crime stories since she was 6-years-old.
When she read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood at the age of 10, she was totally hooked.
O’Reilly started writing her own stories while in grade school and wrote her first full-length novel when she was 15 years old.
Her love of solving crimes led her to apply for and be accepted into the Pennsylvania State Police Academy but as a young mother, she realized the obligations were too much for her family and left.
But her passion for writing and True Crime stayed with her.
O’Reilly never believed she was good enough to publish and kept her stories locked away.
Then, from 1989 to 1991, she had stories published in True Detective Magazine under the name “Tammy Mal.” At the age of 47, 40 years after she first fell in love with her genre, she self-published her first book, “Little Girl Lost: The True Story of the Vandling Murder,” a well-researched book about the murder of 9-year-old Mae Barrett in 1945.
Following that book, O’Reilly wrote for Absolute Crime Publishing and in 2013, self-published “Disposable Income: A True Story of Sex, Greed, and Im-purr-fect Murder,” about the murder of Anna Homeyer of Factoryville, in 1945.
In 2014 she released “Tortured Minds: Pennsylvania’s Most Bizarre—But Forgotten—Murders,” a collection of little known murders from the 1930s.
O’Reilly has been interviewed on “You Be the Judge” and has been invited to speak at libraries, historical societies and local book clubs.
Since 2010, Tammy has been researching the 1994 Katrinak murders in Catasauqua.
Joann Katrinak and her infant son were brutally murdered. Patricia Rorrer, an ex-girlfriend of Joann’s husband, was found guilty of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison.
When O’Reilly started doing the research, she believed Patricia (Patty) had been proven guilty and had committed the crimes.
Six years of research later, she isn’t so sure.
Joann’s family was unwilling to speak with O’Reilly. After she wrote them a letter asking for an interview she was contacted not by the family, but by the officer who investigated the case and was told: “Nobody wants you digging into this case, and no one is going to cooperate with you. No one wants this case brought back up. The family just wants to be left alone.”
O’Reilly felt bad about opening old wounds and considered not writing the book until she saw a recent episode of “On the Case with Paula Zahn,” entitled Driven to Kill.
“The episode recounted the Katrinak murders and there, appearing regularly on-screen to discuss the crime and those involved, were members of Joann’s family as well as several of the original officers who worked the case…so much for no one wanting the case brought back up.”
Although the family didn’t want to talk to the writer, Patty Rorrer did.
“From her very first letter, Patricia fervently protested her innocence and urged me to keep an open mind. I promised her that I would and assured her I’d investigate the case to the best of my ability, but I gave her a warning as well. ‘I’ll follow the evidence wherever it leads,’ I told her, ‘but if it leads me to conclude you’re guilty, I’ll write the book that way.’ Patricia immediately wrote back and said that was fine.”
From more than 10,000 official documents including Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) reports, FBI Files, forensic lab results, and the 6,500-page trial transcript, four years of intensive research, countless interviews with those involved, and hundreds of letters, phone calls and personal visits with Patricia Rorrer, O’Reilly found details that didn’t add up, had never been made public, and that raised serious questions about the case and Patty’s guilt.
Her book, working title “Reasonable Doubt,” details the original story as presented in the press and the story as found in the files and reports.
Through her research, O’Reilly has been instrumental in getting the Philadelphia Innocence Project to take a closer look at the evidence and has gained the support and cooperation of Appeals Attorney Craig Neely.
For the past year, NBC has been using O’Reilly and her research as a primary resource for a project they are proposing to do on the murder.
She has signed a contract with NYC Literary Agent Mike Hoogland of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management to represent the book, and HarperCollins, one of the largest book publishers in the world, is interested in acquiring publishing rights.
Because this case is still in appeal status, many of the discrepancies O’Reilly has found can’t be listed, but more things are happening every day.
A hearing is scheduled for April 5, asking to give Attorney Neely access to evidence that was referred to but not provided to the jury during the trial.
Because this case is still in appeal status, the many discrepancies O’Reilly found are not yet public. A hearing is taking place April 5, in an effort to give Neely access to evidence that was referred to but never provided to the jury during the trial. The request is supported by new witnesses in the case, indications of possible tampering with evidence, and an FBI report stating that hair analysis before the year 2000 was inaccurate much of the time. Rorrer’s case went to trial in 1998.
Only time will tell what happens next but whichever way it goes, O’Reilly’s meticulous research will play a role.