A Descent Into Hell

A Descent Into Hell

4.3 70
by Kathryn Casey
     
 

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Bright, attractive, and both from good families, University of Texas college student Colton Pitonyak and vibrant redhead Jennifer Cave had the world at their beckoning. Cave, an ex-cheerleader, had just landed an exciting new job, while a big-money scholarship to UT's prestigious business school lured Pitonyak to Austin. Yet the former altar boy had a dark,

Overview

Bright, attractive, and both from good families, University of Texas college student Colton Pitonyak and vibrant redhead Jennifer Cave had the world at their beckoning. Cave, an ex-cheerleader, had just landed an exciting new job, while a big-money scholarship to UT's prestigious business school lured Pitonyak to Austin. Yet the former altar boy had a dark, unpredictable streak, one that ensnared him in the perilous underworld of drugs and guns. When Jennifer failed to show up for work on August 18, 2005, her mother became frightened. Sharon Cave's search led to Colton's West Campus apartment, where Jennifer's family discovered a scene worthy of the grisliest horror movie. Meanwhile, Colton Pitonyak was nowhere to be found.

A Descent Into Hell is the gripping true story of one of the most brutal slayings in UT history—and the wild "Bonnie and Clyde-like" flight from justice of a cold-blooded young killer and his would-be girlfriend, who claimed that her unquestioning allegiance to Pitonyak was "just the way I roll."

Editorial Reviews

Carlton Stowers
“Msterfully, Casey weaves a dark and disturbing look into a world of advantaged youths who throw it all away.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061843563
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
64,583
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

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

One

The clock tower had placidly watched over Austin from 230 feet above since 1937. It was so loved that the sight of its vertical column soaring into a cloudless blue sky swelled alumni with pride. Few disputed that the imposing tower with its four twelve-foot faces rimmed in gold leaf was the symbol of the University of Texas, or that UT was the university Lone Star parents pushed their children to attend, the institution that inspired high schoolers to crash for exams and hoard birthday money in a college fund. For UT and its tower were much more than a university and a building; they were symbols of hope and the promise of a dream.

Yet the clock tower had another history as well, a much darker one. On August 1, 1966, a twenty-five-year-old architecture student and ex-marine, Charles Joseph Whitman, climbed the UT clock tower stairs lugging a cache of weapons. The nightmare lasted eighty minutes. Before a police bullet found its mark and ended the carnage, Whitman murdered sixteen, including his wife and mother, and wounded thirty-one.

Fast-forward thirty-nine years to August 18, 2005. On this day, yet another shocking tragedy unfolded in the clock tower's shadow.

On the university's West Campus, a well-heeled neighborhood of sororities, frat houses, and expensive student housing, at 2529 Rio Grande, stood the Orange Tree, a block-long, three-story condominium project, one of the most prestigious on the campus. On the second floor, a locked red door with the number 88 marked the condo leased by Colton Pitonyak. A National MeritScholar finalist who'd had the advantages of a prosperous upbringing, Pitonyak was a former Catholic school kid, an altar boy who spoke French and played the guitar and piano. When he left Little Rock, Arkansas, four years earlier with a full academic scholarship to study finance at UT's esteemed McCombs Business School, many believed he would one day make his name as a Wall Street whiz kid.

This night would prove them wrong. Instead, Colton Pitonyak's legacy would be markedly more sinister. But then, no one could have predicted the horror that waited behind the door marked 88.

The heat that August was nearly unbearable, well into the nineties. Summer in Austin could be blisteringly hot. Yet a breeze ruffled the trees, and no one in the small group gathered outside Colton Pitonyak's apartment noticed the sweltering weather.

They'd been there for hours: Sharon Cave; her tall, sandy-haired accountant boyfriend, Jim Sedwick; and Cave's oldest daughter, Vanessa.

A petite woman with thick, dark blond hair, Cave stared at the locked red door to unit 88. Her second child, twenty-one-year-old Jennifer, was missing. No one had seen her in nearly forty-eight hours, not since she had left a bar with Pitonyak. When Sharon called his cell phone from her Corpus Christi home, a surly Pitonyak refused to answer questions.

"Dude, I'm having pizza with my friend," he replied. "Don't bother me." Worried, Cave and Sedwick rushed to Austin. Twenty-five-year-old Vanessa came, too, driving in from Dallas. They were all determined to find Jennifer, and their only clue was Pitonyak. But they'd pounded over and over again on his door, and no one answered. The afternoon wore on. Sunset passed, leaving the sky cloaked in darkness, as lights illuminated the somber tower. At the apartment marked 88, Sharon, Jim, and Vanessa stood vigil, for what they weren't sure. All Sharon knew for certain was that she had to get into Pitonyak's apartment. The answer to Jennifer's disappearance waited inside.

Like her mother, Vanessa, willowy with long, dark blond hair, understood things she couldn't explain. Sharon and all three of her daughters were like that, so connected it was a nearly psychic bond, an uncut spiritual umbilical cord that bound them together. Deep within them, Vanessa and Sharon unconsciously understood the importance of this day. Something grave had taken place, and they sensed the breaking of the tie that anchored them to Jennifer, the slipping away of her presence in their lives.

At 10 p.m. the University of Texas clock tower's carillon rang, marking the hour, and for Sharon, Jim, and Vanessa, time stood still. When it started again, Jim Sedwick crawled through a window into Colton Pitonyak's apartment, and their lives changed, forever.

A Descent Into Hell
The True Story of an Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder
. Copyright © by Kathryn Casey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Carlton Stowers
“Msterfully, Casey weaves a dark and disturbing look into a world of advantaged youths who throw it all away.”

Meet the Author

Kathryn Casey is an award-winning journalist, who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, Texas Monthly, and many other publications. She's the author of seven previous true crime books and the creator of the highly acclaimed Sarah Armstrong mystery series. Casey has appeared on Oprah, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen network, Biography, Nancy Grace, E! network, truTV, Investigation Discovery, the Travel Channel, and A&E. She lives in Houston with her husband and their dog, Nelson.

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Descent into Hell: The True Story of an Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a big true crime fan, and this book is one of the best I've ever read. I had trouble putting it down. Kathryn Casey has once again surpassed my expectations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book caught my attention from the beginning. The author does a remarkable job of introducing all details. I respect her research with this brutal true story. It may be hard to read about stories like this, but being introduced to the real world and the creeps that are out there is important to me. This world is getting worse every day...and to read about bad people helps me to understand and be aware of what to look for in people. I am a realistic person and cannot live my life looking for just the 'good' in people. Focusing on that may cloud your opportunity to see the true colors...sad, but so true.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book is very well written. Good research and depiction of this true life horror. Recommend this author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I agree with another reviewer that the book does have some spelling and grammar mistakes, I found the story to be very moving. Jennifer Cave's murder was an horrific act and Kathryn Casey did an excellent job presenting Cave's life story alongside the criminal evidence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written. It is truly scary to see what effects a drug can do to a life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. You will not be able to put it down.
TexasStarVA More than 1 year ago
The murder took place after I moved away from Austin, but brought back so many memories of my West Campus days. Note to Author: "the Drag" is Guadaluape between MLK and 30th = NOT 6th STREET. The Drag is the Drag (it's capitalized, too) and 6th Street is 6th Street! Other than that, you got a lot of the flavor right. There were plenty of girls like Jennifer and Laura and a few guys like Colton. I knew stranger people but for the most part, they grew up and regained touch with reality. So sad that Jennifer never got the chance to make her dreams come true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an important insight into not only what a whril pool drugs and greed are it also, without preaching, shows what a monster can be created by a privleged childhood, especially one where a child is told covertly, if not overtlly, they are better than others because of their intellect or family money. Colton's family got him out of trouble with legal help - too bad he did not have to face more of the consequences of his behavior.
Teri Brichetto More than 1 year ago
Kathryn Casey does an unbelievable job sharing this story. Excellent read and horrific story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I began reading this book and was unable to put it down. Very well written and the author made you feel like you were there living the experience with the families.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kathryn Casey does a great job getting you into the story and attempting to make you feel what each person goes through in this tragic ordeal. I already bought an other book from Casey as I think she does a great job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read Tragic story My heart aches for the Cave Family, God Bless Jennifer is now at Peace and watches over you
Lindsie More than 1 year ago
This is a well told true crime novel that revolves ariund the case of Jennifer Cave. While the story is horrific, Kathryn Casey goes into great detail about everything involved in this case. From the beginning to end readers will get a first hand glimpse at the life of all those involved in this terrible tragedy. For anyone that enjoys true crime novels I would HIGHLY recommend this one. A++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author did a great job writing this book. I haven't had a book I couldn't put down in ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is what a true crime book is supposed to be like! The author really puts a lot of work into her research of the case and it shows. I got so engrossed in reading this book I was late for an appointment!! Looking forward to reading other true crime books by Katheryn Casey if they are all written like this. She covers everything. At the end of the book, I felt like I knew all the major people involved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book you can not quit reading!!
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Just like the gentlemen I see at work. A look at the people and the system we trust to keep us safe -- and those they keep us safe from.
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