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A Descent Into Hell
The True Story of an Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder

by Kathryn Casey

      The murder of Jennifer Cave claims the dubious distinction of being one of the most brutal slayings in the history of the University of Texas.

He is Colton Pitonyak, a young Arkansas man, a devout altar boy at his local Catholic church, an excellent student so brilliant in math that he was awarded a full scholarship at Combe Business School, the University of Texas’ prestigious business school.  He was predicted to become a great success in Wall Street.

She is Jennifer Cave, one of three loving daughters of Sharon, and a member of a close-knit, loving family, who couldn't decide what her future would be.

They met at the University of Texas, and followed a dark path of drugs to ultimate violence.

When Sharon hadn't heard from Jennifer for several days (they called each other on their cell phones at least once a day) and her new employer reported her absent from her job, Sharon called Colton looking for her.  He denied knowing where she was.  When the police wouldn’t help her, Sharon and her friend Jim Sedwick went to Colton's apartment, where there was no answer.  Upon gaining access to the apartment, they discovered Jennifer's mutilated body in the bathtub. Colton had fled to Mexico with Laura Hall who was obsessed with him.  The Texas police were able to extradite him and eventually try them both for Jennifer's murder.

Casey has done a meticulous job of researching the case.  A Descent Into Hell is a tragic and sad story.   It is well told. The reader can feel the trauma, pain and sadness of Jennifer's family.  The reader can also experience the horror of the violation of Jennifer's body.  Casey presents an atmosphere of a drug-laden campus which is terrifying. I cannot comprehend why those who have so much going for themselves will abuse and jeopardize their lives and bodies.  It is a question the answer to which defies logic and understanding.

There is a photo section which helps give a visual sense of those involved.

The Book

June 24,2008
Mass Market Paperback
NonFiction / True Crime
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The Reviewer

Barbara Buhrer
Reviewed 2008
© 2008