An Emotional Rollercoaster: Mother of Murder Victim Shares Her Story
Her daughter Katrina, a senior at Clarion University, had been shot and killed on the evening of March 1, 2017, during what police said was an argument over money.
According to court records, Damien Ditz, of Clarion, initially claimed his Glock 37 handgun went off as it slid off the dash and hit the center console.
But, after further police investigation, which included a polygraph exam by Pa. State Police Corporal Matthew Higgins, law enforcement authorities ruled the fatal shooting intentional.
For Tammy, the past year has been an emotional rollercoaster, but her faith in God, support from family, friends, and community members in Clarion and Curwensville, and the willingness to share her daughter’s tragic story have helped her focus on other things besides Katrina’s death.
“My faith in the Lord has meant everything,” Tammy said. “He guides and directs me.”
Linda Trojak – a legal advocate at SAFE in Clarion – reached out to Tammy Seaburn.
SAFE, short for Stop Abuse For Everyone, works to stop domestic violence and help victims and their family members.
“Linda has been such a support to me,” Tammy said. “I didn’t know any of the legal issues, and she has explained everything to me and kept me up to date with what’s going on.”
“The support from the community – the outpouring from friends and family, the school district, has just been astonishing,” Tammy said. “Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call me, and that takes my focus off the bad stuff.”
Tammy said she realizes she has a long road ahead of her.
“No one should have to deal with this agony – it destroys people,” Tammy said.
Tammy has also received family support from her sister, Shelley Shimmel, who endured another personal tragedy shortly after Katrina’s death.
“Her house burned down about a month-and-a-half after Katrina was killed,” Tammy said. “She lost her dog, lost everything, so she has been staying with me and our mom, helping out.”
“I’ve really leaned on her since it happened,” Tammy said.
Speaking out and sharing Katrina’s story has also been an avenue of therapy for Tammy.
She spoke at Clarion’s Take Back the Night and at a memorial basketball game at Curwensville, where Katrina graduated in 2013.
“Domestic violence doesn’t choose race, religion or anything else. It affects everyone. No one should have to hurt anyone to make themselves feel better about themselves,” Tammy said. “As long as I am asked to speak, I will continue to do so.”
“If I reach one person, help someone get out of a situation like this, then I’ve done my duty.”
In the month leading up to her daughter’s death, Tammy said she knew something was wrong.
“Her senior year, she had some apartment issues and she decided to commute – she had classes three days a week – and it was working, but still I could tell something was off,” Tammy said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but she was staying with Damien at his father’s house quite a bit during the spring semester.”
Tammy also believed money was an issue.
“She had thousands taken from her account in a span of about 20 days,” Tammy said. “They found ten $100 bills in her twirling bag. I believe someone put it in there. There is no way it was hers.”
In the criminal complaint filed by State Trooper Nicewonger, Ditz said he and Katrina were arguing about money as he was driving into the parking area of a trailer court in Lake Lucy where the shooting occurred.
Ditz told investigators that he was angry at the victim and “lost his temper,” according to court documents.
Tammy also said she believed her daughter was ashamed of what was going on and felt like she couldn’t tell anyone about it.
“I feel she was just too proud to talk about it. I just wish she would have shared what was going on.”
“It causes mind games; it makes the victims scared, afraid, ashamed. We need to strive for zero tolerance when it comes to domestic violence,” Tammy said. “Please don’t hide from domestic abuse, please go get help.”
Tammy said she has been active in the investigation, speaking to state police and the district attorney’s office.
“It teaches you patience, patience you don’t want to have, but you learn how to accept that it’s going to take time,” Tammy said.
She credited the work of Cpl. Higgins for breaking the case.
“Police had been trying to get him (Ditz) to take a polygraph test, but it was postponed several times because he said he was too emotional,” Tammy said.
The polygraph test was requested “to clarify details about the shooting as discrepancies were discovered in his account of the incident,” according to court documents.
Police said Ditz admitted his previous statements were false during a seven-hour interview and polygraph examination conducted by Cpl. Higgins and Trooper Mallory at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
Ditz’s attorney, Adam Bishop of Bishop Law in Pittsburgh, filed a motion to have statements made by his client thrown out; however, Clarion County President Judge James Arner ruled on February 8 that the statements Ditz made to police would be allowed at trial.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 14, 2018, with District Attorney Mark Aaron.
The possibility of a plea deal at that meeting has left Tammy undecided about how she feels.
“My greatest wish is that he tells what he did and accepts his punishment,” Tammy said. “I have my faith in God that justice will be served no matter how it happens.”
“But, I will be there for whatever happens. You never stop being a mother; you never stop being there for your child,” Tammy said.
“I know she will be remembered as a kind-hearted individual. There’s not a mean bone in her body. She was a go-getter, determined, lovable, successful,” Tammy said.
“She touched so many people, teaching twirling to students at Titusville, her bandmates at Clarion, all the notes and social media messages I’ve received from people who said Katrina had touched their lives,” Tammy said.
Katrina was a few months from commencement at Clarion, and the university did give Tammy her diploma for earning her Bachelor of Science degree in accounting.
“She was seventh in her class. She had already been accepted to the Master’s program so she could become a Certified Public Accountant. She would have contributed to society immensely,” Tammy said.
Katrina will be remembered forever through the Katrina Seaburn Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will provide two $500.00 scholarships to deserving high school seniors.
To qualify for the scholarship, the senior must be a two-year member of National Honor Society, an athlete, and a member of the band or choir, receiving a two-year letter in either the sport or band.
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