finish lines

Point Park journalism professor Steve Hallock’s latest book is Justice Delayed: The Catherine Janet Walsh Story. It is about a Beaver County murder that went unsolved for 30 plus years, and a detective who was so haunted by the case that he stuck with it throughout his entire career. The book is available on Amazon.

hallock_rial_180What sparked your interest? I read an article in 2012 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about an upcoming preliminary hearing for this case, and one paragraph in particular struck me. The original responding Monaca police officer, named Andrew Gall, had stayed with the case for more than 30 years. That sort of tenacity, and the process involved in a 30-year-long investigation, piqued my interest.

Were there  challenges in reconstructing a story from 1979? The primary challenge was setting the scene of the weekend of the murder and finding people who were involved in the case or who at least knew about it. All of the victim’s neighbors were gone, and the three women she had been out drinking and dancing with the night before her murder would not talk to me. However, an extensive analysis of the court transcript, which I purchased for the sake of accuracy, of witness testimony and newspaper clippings dating from the murder over the next several years provided much of the flesh to the bones of the story.

Were there times you needed a break from the project? I never experienced a lull in the research, which fed my curiosity and drove my writing. I knew I had a book when I looked through the investigative files and saw not only what a mystery this case was at the time but also the wealth of personality and character detail about each of the five suspects and of the various witnesses and others involved in the case. I knew then that not only was this a story that begged to be told but that it was a true mystery that needed to be solved, as it ultimately was, with a rather unique twist that emerged in the testimony of the final witness in the courtroom theater.

photo by Martha Rial