If there were awards for distorted reporting, the Morning Call out of Lehigh, PA would win high honors. Pretrial and trial reporting is listed below:
Rorrer's Reputation: `Don't Mess With Me'
June 25, 1997
by DAVID WASHBURN,
The Morning Call
The last 20 years of Patricia Rorrer's life have been a tale of failure, two brushes with the law and the death of her infant son.
Rorrer, charged Tuesday with the 2-year-old murders of Joann Katrinak and Katrinak's infant son, moved back and forth from the Lehigh Valley and Linwood, N.C., since the late 1970s, leaving failed relationships, a spotty work record and arrests for shoplifting and cruelty to animals.
"She had a reputation of, `You don't mess with me,'" Fonda Kay Eggers told a reporter for the Dispatch of Lexington, N.C. Eggers, a Humane Society investigator and distant relative of Rorrer, filed animal cruelty charges against Rorrer in 1994 after checking on Rorrer's horses.
"They were skin and bones and totally neglected," Eggers said. The charges were later dismissed.
In early 1995, Rorrer was arrested for shoplifting at a Linwood Wal-Mart, according to police records. She received 12 months' probation.
Rorrer was 18 when she lost her 3-1/2-month-old son on Nov. 20, 1982. Charles Robert Gabard died of natural causes, according to the death certificate.
Eggers said Rorrer's marriage to Charles Gabard ended soon afterward.
Davidson County, N.C., Sheriff Gerald Hege describes Rorrer as a "brute of a woman," who seemed to taunt law enforcement officers as they built a case against her.
Hege had seen Rorrer a few times over the past two years, and his department was watching her closely. He was a little surprised when she approached him as though they were old friends last fall at a county barbecue.
He was selling T-shirts for the department. Rorrer, he said, bought one with his autograph and cheered him on "to go get the bad guys."
"She was cool," Hege said of the 33-year-old mother, about the same time Rorrer was being arraigned. "I guess she thought she wasn't going to get caught."
Rorrer was born in Phillipsburg. Her family moved to North Carolina in 1978 but returned to the area in 1984. In 1986, she met and began a relationship with Andrew Katrinak. In 1991, she returned to North Carolina after the relationship with Katrinak was over and she had defaulted on a mortgage loan.
She briefly held a job as a saleswoman for a Salisbury, N.C., car dealership, where she is remembered as an outgoing, friendly person.
"I would never of dreamed it in a million years," said Joy Deal, manager of the dealership.
After leaving the car dealership, Rorrer worked sparingly as a photographer and lived with her mother and 1-1/2-year-old son in a remote home outside of Linwood. The father of her son is not known.
In 1993, Rorrer called Katrinak, who told her he was married. A year later, she started calling again. The final call in December 1994 ended with Joann Katrinak angrily telling her to stop calling, according to police.
POLICE ARREST WOMAN IN 3-YEAR-OLD CASE OF SLAIN MOTHER AND CHILD
Jun. 24, 1997
BETHLEHEM, PA. BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) _ A woman was arrested in North Carolina on Tuesday and charged in the 1994 slaying of her ex-boyfriend's wife and infant son in Pennsylvania.
Patricia L. Rorrer was charged with two counts of murder and two counts of kidnapping in the deaths of Joann Katrinak, 26, and her 3 1/2-month-old son, Alex.
Pennsylvania police, with the help of authorities in North Carolina, arrested Ms. Rorrer, 33, in Linwood, N.C. She was jailed without bail pending a court hearing Wednesday to face extradition.
Mrs. Katrinak's husband, Andrew, reported his wife and son missing in December 1994 after they failed to show up at his mother's house.
Andrew Katrinak said he found his basement door ajar and removed from its hinges, and a phone line had been cut. His wife's vehicle was discovered in a parking lot 100 yards away from their house.
The bodies of the mother and son were found in April 1995 in a rural, wooded area 15 miles from home. Mrs. Katrinak had been shot in the face and beaten, and Alex is believed to have died from suffocation and exposure.
Ms. Rorrer was identified early on as a possible suspect. She moved to North Carolina after her relationship with Katrinak ended in 1991. But she continued to call him occasionally.
Three days before she vanished, Mrs. Katrinak angrily told Ms. Rorrer over the phone to stop calling her house, according to a police affidavit.
DNA analysis showed that hair samples Ms. Rorrer submitted matched six found in the headrest of Mrs. Katrinak's car and two found near the bodies.
DNA TRAIL IN 2-YEAR-OLD SLAYINGS OF WOMAN, BABY LEAD TO ARREST
Jun. 25, 1997
BETHLEHEM, PA. BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) _ Joann Katrinak was shot in the face in woods not far from where her 3-month-old son, Alex, suffocated or was left to die.
Investigators believed early on they had a good idea who the killer was. Today, more than two years later, that woman awaited extradition from North Carolina to face charges she kidnapped and killed her ex-boyfriend's family in December 1994.
Authorities said Tuesday it took two years to build a tight forensic case against Patricia L. Rorrer, 33, partly through blond hairs found in Mrs. Katrinak's car a day after she disappeared.
``We wanted to make sure that the hairs found at the scene were also consistent with the hairs found at the car,'' said Lehigh County District Attorney Robert Steinberg. ``There was no rush to judgment.''
FBI examiners concluded there was a DNA match.
Ms. Rorrer, a photographer with an 18-month-old child, was arrested in Linwood, N.C., and jailed without bail pending an extradition hearing.
She was born in Phillipsburg, N.J., and in 1978 moved to North Carolina with her family. She returned to New Jersey in 1984, met Andrew Katrinak, and later lived with him.
At some point she also lived in Pennsylvania's Lehigh County, Steinberg said.
``She was very familiar with the remote location where the bodies were discovered,'' he said. ``She stabled her horses and rode her horses there.''
The two went their separate ways in 1991, but Ms. Rorrer stayed in touch with her ex-boyfriend.
Katrinak married and was living in Catasauqua, Pa., with his wife and son when they failed to meet him at his mother's house, who lived nearby, on Dec. 15, 1994.
Katrinak went home and said he found his basement door removed from its hinges. He later discovered a phone line had been cut.
Mrs. Katrinak's locked car was found not far from the family home. Four months later, a farmer found the bodies. She had been beaten and shot in the face. The boy died either from suffocation or exposure.
Although by 1994 she was living in North Carolina, Ms. Rorrer phoned Katrinak occasionally. Three days before she vanished, Mrs. Katrinak had angrily told Ms. Rorrer to stop calling her husband.
Murder Suspect Breaks Down As Detectives Tell Of Her Arrest:
`I'm Sorry For Doing This To You,' Patricia Rorrer Allegedly Told Her Infant Daughter.
February 18, 1998
by DEBBIE GARLICKI
The Morning Call
As testimony continued on the seventh day of her double-murder trial, Patricia Rorrer cried for the first time.
The North Carolina woman, who had shown no emotion while the families of the victims have wept openly and often, lost her composure Tuesday afternoon.
Detectives from the Davidson County sheriff's office took the witness stand to recall the morning of June 24, 1997, when they knocked on the door of Rorrer's Linwood, N.C., home and told her she was under arrest for the murders of Joann and Alex Katrinak.
Rorrer, 34, was charged with kidnapping Joann Katrinak, 26, and Alex, 15 weeks, in December 1994 from their Catasauqua home, killing them and leaving their bodies in Heidelberg Township woods. The victims were the wife and son of Rorrer's ex-boyfriend, Andrew Katrinak.
Lt. Christopher Coble and Sgt. Suzanne Pearson testified about Rorrer's reaction to the news that she was being charged and about incriminating statements she allegedly made.
Those statements were made shortly after 6 a.m. while Rorrer, still in bed clothes, held her 1-1/2-year-old daughter, Nicole, and talked to the wailing baby, according to the witnesses.
Coble said Rorrer was crying and trying to comfort her child. "I'm sorry for doing this to you," Rorrer repeatedly said, according to Coble.
He asked Rorrer for the name and telephone number of someone who could take care of the baby, and she gave him her mother's number. Coble later told Rorrer that her mother was on the way and that she could get dressed.
"I'm not worried about my clothes," Rorrer said. "I'm never going to see my daughter again."
The testimony appeared to strike an emotional chord in the woman whom prosecution witnesses have portrayed as a tough cowgirl. Rorrer, who owned horses, excelled at the sport of cattle-penning, loved to drive far and fast, remodeled her own home, and shot guns for the fun of it.
Rorrer, when Coble talked about her baby, started discreetly wiping the corners of her eyes, her lower lashes and her nose. She turned a flushed face and red nose away from the visitors' section.
Her demeanor during testimony about her baby, who turned 2 last month, was far different from that during the rest of the Lehigh County trial.
Earlier, she was dry-eyed as witnesses described the numerous wounds to Joann Katrinak, who had been shot and beaten, and the baby's death from exposure to cold or suffocation. The victims' families wept at the sight of photographs of the bodies and cried when Andrew Katrinak identified objects found at the scene -- his son's diaper bag, his favorite rattle and a bottle with a dinosaur cap.
Defendant Takes Stand In Katrinak Case
Patricia Rorrer Sums Up Her Life At Double-murder Trial. She Faces Prosecutor Tomorrow.
March 03, 1998
by DEBBIE GARLICKI
The Morning Call
Double-murder trial defendant Patricia Rorrer took the witness stand in her own defense Monday, giving jurors a Cliff Notes version of her life up until the time a Catasauqua woman and her baby disappeared in 1994.
Rorrer, 34, testified in a soft, slow voice for an hour and 20 minutes before court adjourned on the 14th day of her Lehigh County trial.
The North Carolina woman accused of killing the wife and 15-week-old baby of her former boyfriend, Andrew Katrinak, calmly answered questions from one of her lawyers, James Pfeiffer.
Rorrer, who had a five-year relationship with Katrinak that ended in 1989, testified that she and Katrinak remained good friends after the breakup, writing letters occasionally and calling each other.
She said she was happy for Katrinak when he told her in a telephone call in March or April 1994 that he had gotten married and a baby was on the way. "I was happy he found somebody," said Rorrer, who sometimes turned in the witness chair to speak directly to the jury.
Prosecutor Michael McIntyre contends that Rorrer isn't what she appears. He claims she was incensed in December 1994 when she called the Katrinak home at 740 Front St. and Joann Katrinak told her not to call anymore.
In his opening statement, McIntyre told jurors he would prove several adages: "Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction" and "you can't always tell a book by its cover."
Investigators allege Rorrer "in a fit of irrational rage" drove from Linwood, N.C., to Catasauqua, to abduct Joann Katrinak and her baby, Alex, at gunpoint. They allege that she drove the victims to Heidelberg Township woods where they were murdered and abandoned. Their bodies were found in April 1995.
Pfeiffer earlier told jurors that the prosecution's theory on a motive makes no sense.
Rorrer, who is charged with kidnapping and homicide, will continue testifying today and will be cross-examined by McIntyre, who has grilled some defense witnesses, firing question after question.
Before Rorrer began testifying, she stood in front of the judge's bench as Pfeiffer put on the record that Rorrer was advised of her constitutional right not to testify and was told that if she chose to exercise it, it couldn't be used against her.
"Do you understand?" he asked her.
"Yes," Rorrer replied very quietly.
Pfeiffer said Rorrer is testifying freely and voluntarily.
Jurors, who have heard nearly 100 witnesses, will be asked by the prosecution to give Rorrer the death penalty if they find her guilty of first-degree murder.
McIntyre earlier said that Rorrer's alleged lies and contradictory statements to police show "consciousness of guilt."
Testimony ended Monday with Pfeiffer taking Rorrer up to October 1994 when she came to Pennsylvania from North Carolina to try to sell four of her horses. Testimony began with her birth in January 1964 in Phillipsburg, N.J.
She told jurors about the jobs she held, the men she dated, her involvement with horses, their training and competitions, and the different places she lived in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Rorrer, dressed in a black suit and white blouse tied at the neck, cried once when she testified about being beaten by a former boyfriend in 1991. She said she sought shelter at Katrinak's home, before Katrinak met his future wife, because she knew no one else in the area.
After Rorrer's father died when she was 15, she dropped out of school to get a job and help pay bills. She worked at restaurants and later sold insurance and real estate and worked at a car dealership in Reading.
She met Katrinak in May 1984, she said, when he was a regular at a restaurant where she worked.
They dated, lived together and bought a home in Salisbury Township. The relationship deteriorated, and she eventually moved out of the house, she said.
"He's a nice guy," Rorrer said of Katrinak. "We got along fine. But we just weren't making it as a couple."
At one point, Katrinak stayed in North Carolina for several weeks to do a roofing job, and it looked as though they might get back together, Rorrer said. But they didn't and, according to her, later went their separate ways.
Rorrer said she called Katrinak in spring 1994 and learned that he was married and was going to be a father. "Like I said, we were still friends," Rorrer said.
She testified that she had met a new man and was happy that Katrinak had found someone special. Rorrer said she had spoken once to Joann before she and Katrinak were married and that Joann seemed friendly when she put Katrinak on the phone.
Rorrer said that years ago, she rented a barn in Washington Township for her horses. That barn is about two miles from where the bodies were discovered along a trail in the woods, where a prosecution witness said she rode horses with Rorrer. But Rorrer said she didn't ride on the trails and wasn't familiar with the area.
Motive Made Focus Of Rorrer Case Closing
Prosecution, Defense Agree It Doesn't Make Sense.
Jury Now Must Decide Whose Argument Does.
March 06, 1998
by DEBBIE GARLICKI,
The Morning Call
Microscopic analyses, mitochondrial DNA testing and nuclear DNA testing showed hairs found at the crime scene and in Joann Katrinak's car matched Rorrer's hairs and DNA in her blood. Tests show the hairs are definitely a woman's.
Rorrer is a cunning woman who almost committed the perfect crime and thought she had outsmarted police, McIntyre said. She wasn't aware she had left behind small clues in the woods and in the car, which police believe was used to take the victims to the woods, the prosecutor said.
Burke highlighted the prosecution's failure to test another hair -- one found in Joann Katrinak's hand. McIntyre didn't address that issue in his closing argument.
Burke said soil in the woods didn't match soil in and on the car and questioned why there was no blood in the car if the killer drove the car back to Catasauqua where it was found.
He also wondered how the victims could have been kidnapped at gunpoint from their home at 740 Front St. in the afternoon without anyone seeing anything.
Prosecutors claim that Rorrer planned the killing and even might have been in the area before Dec. 15, 1994. Burke said the prosecution brought no one from North Carolina to testify that Rorrer wasn't home for several days.
McIntyre said Rorrer tried to conceal her guilt by concocting phony alibis, which shows consciousness of guilt. And the alibi she used at trial -- that she was in a country music club with her fiance and his friend -- isn't credible, according to the prosecution. No one else from the club testified she was there. Her name is not on a Dec. 15, 1994, sign-in sheet for the private club.
Police never found the murder weapon, a .22-caliber gun.
"Where's the gun, Patty?" McIntyre almost shouted, turning to face Rorrer at the defense table.
Police learned that Rorrer bought a .22-caliber handgun that she allegedly still had in fall 1994. The fact she no longer has that gun "is almost as good as having the weapon," McIntyre said.
To believe Rorrer's testimony, he said, jurors would have to reject testimony of 22 prosecution witnesses, whom she said were mistaken in their recollections of events.
"Either she's guilty or she's the most unlucky person who's ever walked on this Earth," McIntyre said.
The killer, he said, would have to have the same DNA as Rorrer, the same color and length of hair, the same gun, the same knowledge of the Katrinak home and the woods, and have a reason to kill Joann Katrinak.
DNA tests In 13-year-old Murder Case Could Be Reexamined
Mar 21, 2007
Pennsylvania prison inmate is asking for new D-N-A tests in a 13-year-old murder case. Patricia Rorrer is formerly from Linwood, North Carolina, and serving a life sentence in the state prison for women at Muncy, Pennsylvania. While not promising to allow the tests, a judge says he will allow an expert to examine evidence from the deaths in 1994 of 26-year-old Joann Katrinak and her three-month-old son, Alex. Katrinak and Alex were the wife and child of Andrew Katrinak. Rorrer, who is Katrinak's former girlfriend, was convicted of abducting Joann Katrinak and her son from their home, shooting Katrinak in the face, and leaving her and the child in the woods, where their bodies were found nearly four months later.
Whose hair is it?
by Bridget DiCosmo
Redacted from "Unreliable Chain: Questionable Hair Evidence Condemns Woman to Prison"
Justice Volume One
Published by Point Park University
From the start, the Rorrer murder case was plagued with allegations of inconsistent evidence collection and testing that eventually led a judge to hold hearings on whether she deserves a new trial.
Her case shows how the present system – in contrast to the dictates of the Coverdell Act – actually contributes to scientific confusion and has almost no automatic audit on investigations when misconduct allegations are leveled.
On Dec. 15, 1994, Andrew Katrinak told police he arrived home from his construction job to find his wife, Joann, and 4-month-old baby, Alex, missing from their Catasauqua, Pa., home. Andrew Katrinak, a former heavyweight boxer, quickly gathered his in-laws and said he suspected foul play. Curiously, he immediately implicated Rorrer, his ex-girlfriend, even though they hadn’t spoken in months and she was living in North Carolina. Rorrer was a slim, auburn-haired, 30-year-old photographer and horse enthusiast.
Before he called police, family members canvassed nearby neighborhoods, driving around the suburban community of about 7,000 people near Allentown, Pa. Around midnight, Joann Katrinak’s father found his daughter’s Toyota Corolla near a tavern down the street. Because it was parallel parked in a tight spot – something his daughter was unable to do – he concluded his daughter could not have put it there.
While there was no trace of violence, police would find six hairs on the passenger headrest of the Corolla. Those hairs would ultimately send Rorrer to prison for life, even though she claims she never was in the car, and the evidence collection and preservation practices have been attacked.
The next day, Andrew Katrinak told police that a gut instinct made him think Rorrer was involved. While he said there was no animosity between them, he claimed Rorrer may have snapped three days earlier when she called him, at which point his wife told her to leave them alone and abruptly hung upthe telephone.
Rorrer said she was almost 500 miles away in North Carolina on the day of the disappearance. Along with Rorrer, Joann Katrinak’s ex-husband, Michael Jack, and Andrew Katrinak were suspects for a time. Andrew Katrinak was suspected because he failed two polygraph tests when asked if he had lied to police and hid evidence.
“If it wasn’t for the DNA, I would
have had a hard time saying ‘guilty.’ ”
GEORGE JAMES GATANIS
JUROR, DISCUSSING AFTER THE RORRER TRIAL THE FACTORS THAT LED TO HIS DECISION.
During the investigation, police took hair samples from several individuals, including Andrew Katrinak, but none matched the headrest hairs.
Four months later, investigators found the bodies of Joann Katrinak and her baby 15 miles away from the Katrinak home at the edge of a field. An autopsy revealed Joann Katrinak was shot in the face with a small-caliber handgun and suffered 19 blows to the head. The baby had been smothered or left to freeze to death.
Chain of custody
Scientists from the Pennsylvania State
Police tried to perform mitochondrialDNA tests on the six hairs from the Toyota,which were immediately collectedand logged. Three of them were mountedon slides and sealed in adhesive. Theremaining three were sent to the FBI.
A subsequent report states the FBIcould not test the hairs because they werecontaminated by someone who touchedthem during the collection process,rendering them scientifically worthless.Despite those reports, state police –without recording the chain of custody inany record that has been revealed incourt – said they sent all of the evidenceback to the FBI for more testing.
While three of the six hairs weredestroyed in previous tests and twoearlier reports revealed no roots fortesting could be found in the others, nowa FBI analyst not only discovered roots totest on the hair samples, but also latermatched them to Rorrer.
The new DNA tests, combined withwhat prosecutors said was evidence thatshe was trying to conjure up an alibi –Rorrer said she was simply trying todocument her movements in NorthCarolina that day – ended with her arrestin the double murder.It was the first time she would facecriminal charges.
During Rorrer’s 18-day trial in February1998, prosecutors pushed the circumstantialmotive of a fatal-attractionmurder. The prosecution painted apicture of a woman so angry after herformer boyfriend’s wife hung up thephone on her that she drove to Pennsylvania,forced Joann Katrinak and herbaby at gunpoint into the car, then tookthem outside of town and killed them.
Witnesses said Rorrer bought a.22-caliber handgun at a yard sale just beforethe murder. Even though no gun wasever tied to the killing, a firearms experttestified that Joann Katrinak’s injuriescould have come from such a weapon.
Andrew Katrinak testified that he had
an amicable breakup with Rorrer, but healso told a jury she had knowledge of the
layout of his home. Andrew Katrinak said that Rorrer
called three days before his wife disappeared, but the phone records do not confirm this call.
With little objection, prosecutors used the second FBI analyst’s description of the hair evidence to put Rorrer at the crime scene. They produced a photo of her with dyed hair, implicating her because the hairs found in the Toyota were dyed.
For nine hours on the witness stand, Rorrer denied having anything to do with the killing. She said she had no animosity toward the Katrinaks and she had never met the dead woman. She also said that she was in North Carolina on the day of the abduction, where she was involved in a committed relationship with the father of her daughter.
She produced phone records showing a call to Andrew Katrinak two weeks before the abduction – not three days before it – to tell him she had won a national horse competition in Oklahoma. She said she did not give the hang up by Joann Katrinak a second thought.
Prosecutors claimed Rorrer manufactured an alibi for the day the victims disappeared. Rorrer said she purchased grain for her horses that day, brought it home and then later went to a bar for western dance lessons with her fiancé and another man. Under cross-examination, she said she didn’t believe it was her hair in the Toyota.
It took a jury of eight men and four women five hours to find her guilty on counts of kidnapping and first-degree murder.
“If it wasn’t for the DNA, I would have had a hard time saying ‘guilty,’ ” juror George James Gatanis, 42, of Salisbury Township told the Allentown Morning Call newspaper after the verdict. The jury spared Rorrer from the death penalty, but condemned her to life behind bars.
What the jury didn’t hear
Prior to the trial, a local man named Walter Traupman told Pennsylvania State Police he saw a couple matching the Katrinaks’ descriptions engaging in a heated argument near where the Toyota was found the day of the disappearance. “The guy was banging at the door and yelling ‘open this door.’ And then, he yelled something like ‘What do you mean it’s not my kid?’ ” Traupman said in a sworn statement.
A neighbor of the Katrinaks told police she saw Joann Katrinak that afternoon, clad in a black, furry jacket that matched Traupman’s description. The jacket also fit the description of the blue-black synthetic fibers police found in Joann Katrinak’s watchband.
Neither witness testified during the trial because the prosecution deemed them unimportant and never revealed the information to the defense, despite legal rules compelling the government to disclose any potentially exculpatory evidence.
While the newly discovered evidence was included in her appeal, it has always focused on the contradictory hair tests and wide gaps in paperwork on the chain of custody in hair evidence.
The appeal argued that substantial documentation of the chain of custody process was at best incomplete and that critical forensic evidence was never tested. It also presented initial FBI reports which claim half of the hair evidence was destroyed during the DNA testing process and the other half was tainted and untestable. This questioned how prosecutors could come up with hair to conduct the second test, which helped them achieve a conviction against Rorrer.
In addition, attorney Craig B. Neely of Emmaus, Pa., argued crucial DNA evidence, such as the hair found clutched in one of the victim’s hands and a fingernail found on Joann Katrinak’s chest, were never tested.
Neely also argued new DNA technology not available at the time of trial could prove Rorrer was never in the car.
In March 2007, Lehigh County Common Pleas Judge William E. Ford said because the case against Rorrer was circumstantial, an effort should be made to analyze all DNA evidence, and Rorrer should be given the opportunity to show if modern science could prove her innocence.
DNA testing of hairs
On Oct. 5, 2007, the District Attorney of Lehigh County agreed to allow the testing of the hair found in the Toyota at Orchid Cellmark Laboratories in Dallas. Despite previous testimony that said all of the hair was destroyed or untestable, the latest test results revealed a hair discovered on the driver’s side seatback of the car matched Rorrer.
“The results are disappointing,” Neely said. “If the Commonwealth’s chain of custody is correct, then the hair on the seatback is Rorrer’s.”
Now, he and Rorrer wonder if they ever will be able to recreate the controversial chain of custody to prove her innocence. Rorrer maintains her innocence to this day and argues that someone either negligently or intentionally put her hair on the slide. She is petitioning for DNA testing on the nail fragment that was found on the victim’s body.
“I’ve fought 10-plus years, hard, and may or may not win,” Rorrer wrote in an October 2008 letter to the Innocence Institute of Point Park University. “But the public needs to know what our system does or doesn’t do.”
Bridget DiCosmo graduated from St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., in 2003. She attended Point Park University as a graduate student from 2005-07 and still is working on her master’s degree. She currently resides in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where she works as a daily reporter covering the crime beat for the Southeast Missourian newspaper.