BY VALENTINA CAVAL
Colin McEvoy wanted to uncover more than the news hidden on the East Stroudsburg University campus.
The ESU alumnus and once upon a time Stroud Courier editor-in-chief pursued his journalistic dream soon after walking off the graduation stage.
He started working at The Express Times as a reporter seven years ago and it was there that he and his wife, Lynn Olanoff, came across a case that led them from the newsroom to a publishing company.
It was the 2008 court case that found Mary Jane Fonder guilty of murdering a congregant in her church, Rhonda Smith.
Smith was shot to death on January 23, 2008 while temping as a receptionist at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield Township. Fonder never officially pleaded guilty.
McEvoy was assigned to cover her arrest for The Express Times, and Olanoff covered her trials for a few weeks.
“I was just kind of assigned because I was the one on that day that was free,” he said.
Article assignments led to several people approaching the couple about pairing up and writing a book about the case.
On a seven hour trip to Vermont the talk of a book became more than just conversation. The book “Love Me Or Else: The True Story of a Devoted Pastor, a Fatal Jealousy, and the Murder that Rocked a Small Town” was published in 2012.
“We kind of talked ourselves into it,” said McEvoy.
Both longtime reporters, they admitted writing a book is a different process.
“As reporters we need to get as much information as we can as quickly as we can,” he said.
A book requires a lot more detail than a 600-word story. In a daily news story there is no need for the layout of a room and most people do not remember that kind of stuff. But “fishing for details” is key to writing a book says McEvoy.
“In interviews we would ask ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘ What did you have for lunch?’ It’s not fiction so we can’t make these things up,” said Olanoff.
One thing that is not fiction is the interview between the two reporters and Mary Jane Fonder inside an all women prison.
They admit they “didn’t really know what to expect” having never interviewed someone inside a prison before but described the environment as “being set up as a community center.”
At the prison, Fonder admitted something to the reporters that she had never said to police officials.
“It was during the interview that she said ‘I think I did it; I think I’m coming to terms with it’,” said Olanoff about murdering Smith.
Olanoff and McEvoy report that Fonder has since said this to other reporters.
When the book was published, the two tried to send Mary Jane a copy of their book but the prison refused it believing it was “glorifying her crime.”
On top of the interviews, the two spent a lot of time reading things that most couples do not: court records and over 150 pages of police reports.
“I didn’t know if our marriage was going to survive during the writing process,” Olanoff joked.
Their marriage did survive and so did their partnership as co-authors.
McEvoy said the partnership really helped get the book out there.
“We kept each other going,” he said.
With his wife’s “incredible memory for detail” they consider her to be the stronger reporter, while McEvoy might be the better writer.
The couple made sure to ask the family for permission prior to writing the book.
“We wouldn’t have done it if they did not want us to,” McEvoy said.
After receiving their permission, the two were fortunate to land an agent in their first attempt.
Having never written a book before, they asked a co-worker’s friend how it worked and put together a proposal.
While some people might not be able to sleep at night after engrossing themselves in a murder trial, McEvoy and Olanoff consider themselves “ almost desensitized” to such emotions from years spent inside a newsroom.
“If you let it personally affect you, after a while you cannot cope with it anymore,” said McEvoy.
“Fatal Jealousy: The true story of a doomed romance,” is another nonfiction piece written by the co-author couple that might send chills down a reader’s spine.
In one of the couple’s interviews with the killer of the second book, a quote rang clear in McEvoy’s head: “If I could dig her up and kill her again I would.”
Email Valentina at: