Author Night at the Library | True Crime Authors of “Burned” Frank Girardot and Lori Orr Kovach

This article was written and produced by South Pasadena Library Director Steve Fjeldsted

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News

An Author Night showcasing true crime writing partners, Frank Girardot and Lori Orr Kovach will be presented at the South Pasadena Public Library on Thursday, February 7 at 7:00 p.m. The free event will focus on their new scorcher, “Burned: Pyromania, Murder, and a Daughter’s Nightmare” published by Wild Blue Press. In addition a mini-exhibit of paintings by iconic LA artist Leo Politi will be on display during the event.

“Burned” is the intimate inside story of the tragic relationship between Lori and her convicted mass murderer father, John Leonard Orr. He was a Glendale arson investigator who’s now thought to be the most the most prolific serial arsonists of the 20th Century. Orr is currently serving a life sentence for the 1984 fire he set in Ole’s Home Center Hardware Store in South Pasadena. The store was completely engulfed by the raging fire that killed four people. Orr’s victims were Matthew Troidl, a two-year old child; Ada Deal, his grandmother; Carolyn Kraus, a 26 year-old mother of two; and Jimmy Cetina, a 17 year-old employee. Orr had investigated the case and declared the cause to be arson even though investigators from around the area thought it started as an electrical fire.

John Orr was arrested for arson in 1991 for intentionally setting other fires. The evidence against him included his fingerprint on an incendiary device, his presence at another very suspicious fire, and transcript descriptions of his travels in his vehicle while unknowingly carrying a hidden tracking device. Many of his trips were made while attending arson investigator conventions. After his arrest, the South Pasadena hardware store fire tragedy was re-examined and Orr was charged with murder due to circumstantial evidence and his eerily similar description of a fire in his unpublished novel, “Points of Origin.” Orr had been submitting his manuscript to a variety of publishers claiming it was based on true events. In 1998, Orr was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Orr is also believed to have set thousands of other fires in the 1980s and 1990s around Southern California and beyond. They coincidentally decreased by more than 90% after he was arrested. Joseph Wambaugh wrote a 2003 bestselling book entitled “Fire Lover” about the case and a film entitled “Point of Origin” starring Ray Liotta as Orr was first aired on HBO in 2002.

Kovach and Girardot’s new book offers never-before-released details on Orr, on the case, and on the tragic relationship between father and daughter. Lori Orr Kovach was born in Hollywood. She is a proud wife and mother to four children and two step-children and resides in Yucaipa. She is speaking out against her father, while revealing shocking family secrets for the first time. Frank Girardot is the former Editor of the Pasadena Star-News and the author of “Name Dropper: Investigating the Clark Rockefeller Mystery”. Frank’s previous book “A Taste for Murder” was recently featured on cable television on the ID Channel.

“Burned” is one of the few true crime books to examine the plight of a criminal’s forgotten victims—the family members. Girardot recently declared, “Thanks to the insight and participation of Lori Orr Kovach, “Burned” is able to provide a window into an often-forgotten group of people and how the crimes of their loved ones can rip families apart with anger and grief.”

The Author Night is presented by the South Pasadena Public Library and the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library in the Library Community Room at 1115 El Centro Street. No tickets or reservations are necessary and refreshments will be served. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Autographed books will be available for purchase. Special thanks to 210eastsound, Jimmy O’Balles, and Steve Hodel, N.Y. Times Bestselling Author. For more information, please call the South Pasadena Public Library at 626 403-7350.