Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.









Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Dismemberment
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 17, 2005
Date of arrest: 6 days after (in Mexico)
Date of birth: 1982
Victim profile: Jennifer Cave, 21
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Travis County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to 55 years in prison on January 29, 2007

photo gallery


The murder of Jennifer Cave occurred in the West Campus area of Austin, Texas. On August 18, 2005, Cave's body was discovered. Chuck Lindell of the Austin American-Statesman said that it was the "most infamous West Campus crime". As of 2009, as the appeals process occurred, the case still made headlines in newspapers.


Jennifer Rae Cave originated from Corpus Christi, Texas. She was one of five girls in her family. She attended school in Bishop, Texas before moving to Corpus Christi in 2000. In 2002 she graduated from Mary Carroll High School in Corpus Christi and in August of that year she traveled to San Marcos, Texas to attend Texas State University (previously Southwest Texas State University) as a finance major. She dropped out after one semester and worked at a restaurant in Austin, Texas, while briefly attending Austin Community College, Riverside Campus. She sometimes used recreational drugs. Before her murder, she began to work for a law firm, as a legal assistant.

Perpetrator and accomplice

Colton Aaron Pitonyak was a finance major at the University of Texas at Austin, originating from Bryant, Arkansas in Greater Little Rock. Prior to coming to Austin, Pitonyak attended Christ the King School and Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was a National Merit Scholar, In the year 2000 Pitonyak was one of seven senior finalists at his high school and one of 166 senior finalists in the state. Pitonyak had high grades and earned a scholarship to attend UT Austin. He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

Pitonyak had also once entered a rehabilitation program for drugs. In 2004 police found cocaine, prescription sleeping pills that he had unlawfully obtained, and anxiety medication in his apartment. He was arrested for possession of illegal drugs. Pitonyak had no previous record of violent crime. Authorities said that Cave and Pitonyak had no previous discord prior to the murder.

Laura Ashley Hall was a University of Texas at Austin student who at one time had been Pitonyak's girlfriend. Prior to Hall's re-imprisonment beginning in 2010, she lived in the area around Bandera, Texas with her parents. She had plans to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) so she could become a lawyer.


On August 16, 2005, Cave and Pitonyak went to Sixth Street in Downtown Austin to celebrate Cave's new job. Cave and Pitonyak went to dinner before Cave was murdered.

Jennifer Cave died in Pitonyak's apartment at the Orange Tree Condominiums, at 2529 Rio Grande Street in West Campus, Austin, Texas. Bill Bishop, a prosecutor in the Travis County, Texas government, said "As far as murders go, this is a very clean murder. He shot her through the arm, bullet traveled into the chest, through the heart pretty much killing her instantly. It was the post-murder behavior that made it so grotesque. The mutilation was anger… it wasn't any effort to hide the body or get rid of the body. It was just playing with it, like it was toy."

Upon discovery, Cave's body had been partially dismembered and had many stab wounds. A hacksaw had been placed on her abdomen. After her death, she had been shot in the head once. Toxicology tests concluded that during her death, Cave had alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamines in her system.

Discovery of the body

On the morning of August 17, 2005, the law firm where Cave worked called Cave's family to say that she did not show up for work. Sharon Sedwick, Cave's mother, and Jim Sedwick, her stepfather, discovered that she had been with Colton Pitonyak. Pitonyak told Sedwick that Cave was not around and asked them to leave him alone. On August 18 the Sedwicks traveled to Austin and found Cave's car at Pitonyak's apartment. Jim Sedwick called 9-1-1. The police said they could not search the apartment without a warrant. Jim Sedwick broke into the apartment after the police departed. After he discovered Jennifer Cave's body, Jim Sedwick called 9-1-1 again.

Escape and capture

On the day that Cave's body had been discovered, Colton Pitonyak and Laura Hall escaped from the United States, using Hall's automobile. Authorities found that the two had crossed into Mexico on August 18, 2005. The two were in Mexico for five days. A Mexican SWAT team discovered the two in a Holiday Inn in Piedras Negras, a city on the Mexico-United States border across from Eagle Pass, Texas, on August 23, 2005. The Mexican law enforcement drove the two to the Mexico-United States border. There, U.S. Marshals arrested Pitonyak. Hall was allowed to leave by herself.

Legal outcome

On August 23, 2005, Colton Pitonyak was charged with murder. Laura Hall was arrested in September 2005.

On Monday January 29, 2007 Pitonyak, then 24, was convicted of murder. On the same day, the jury panel recommended a 55 year prison sentence for Pitonyak. Pitonyak received a 55 year sentence. Pitonyak will be eligible for parole when half of his sentence was served, when he is age 51. Outside of court, Jim Sedwick said, as paraphrased by Harriet Ryan of Court TV that "there was only a two-and-a-half-year functional difference between the jury's sentence and the life term. In Texas, those sentenced to life are eligible for parole in 30 years."

In 2007 Hall was convicted of tampering with evidence and hindering the apprehension of Pitonyak. The former charge originates from the dismemberment of Cave's body. She was sentenced to five years for the tampering and one year for the hindering, with the sentences to be served concurrently. Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle said "The relatively light sentence, after an emotional appeal from Hall's father, suggests that the delay in reaching a verdict reflected some division in the jurors' judgment of Hall's culpability. But Hall's trial, like Pitonyak's, in the end produced little understanding either of what really happened to young Jennifer Cave or, most especially, why her supposed friends ended her life with such brutal, emotionless, and unthinking cruelty." On February 19, 2009 the Texas Third Court of Appeals canceled her sentence. The court stated that her sentencing hearing was not fair. Hall was released on bond.

In 2010 a jury in Travis County, Texas sentenced Hall to the maximum possible sentence, including prison and $14,000 ($14739.2 when adjusted for inflation) in fines. The sentences, to be done concurrently, include ten years for tampering with evidence and one year for hindering apprehension. She would get credit for two years that she had already spent in confinement prior to the sentencing.

On Monday February 8, 2010, Hall was placed in county custody prior to her new sentencing hearing. On August 3, 2010, Hall was taken into the custody of the state prison system, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). She was initially assigned to the Plane State Jail. On October 28, 2011, the state denied parole to Laura Hall. She became eligible again in November 2012.

As of 2013, Colton Pitonyak, TDCJ#01413729 and State ID (SID)#07004898, is incarcerated in the Robertson Unit.

As of 2013 Laura Hall, TDCJ#01654372 and SID#07572662 is incarcerated in the Hobby Unit.


Cave's visitation was held at the Seaside Funeral Home on Monday August 22, 2005 and the funeral was held at the All Saints Episcopal Church on Tuesday August 23. Cave was buried in a private ceremony.

Kathryn Casey wrote the book A Descent into Hell: The True Story of an Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder about the crime. HarperCollins Publishers published the book.


Jurors find college student guilty of killing and dismembering woman, sentence him to 55 years

Jan. 30, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas — A district court jury convicted a University of Texas student of murder Monday, rejecting his defense that the shooting of a young female friend occurred accidentally while he was drunk and high on drugs.

In separate deliberations later in the day, the same panel recommended that the student, 24-year-old Colton Pitonyak, serve 55 years in prison. The judge who presided over the trial immediately imposed that sentence.

Pitonyak, a former National Merit Scholar described as the one-time "shining star" of his all-boys Catholic high school in Little Rock, Ark., will be eligible for parole at age 51, when he has served half the sentence.

Asked by Judge Wilford Flowers if he had anything to say before sentencing, Pitonyak bowed his head and said quietly, "I want to apologize to everyone here."

Pitonyak was convicted of murdering Jennifer Cave, 21, in his apartment Aug. 17, 2005. The victim's mother, Sharon, who testified in both phases of the trial, greeted the sentence with tears and a smile.

"We are very, very happy with the verdict," she said afterwards.

Pitonyak sat stone-faced through both verdicts and through the testimony of a half-dozen witnesses, including his parents, who asked jurors for leniency.

"I believe with everything that I am that Colton could not and would not have harmed his best friend in the world," Pitonyak's mother, Bridgett, testified through tears.

During his testimony last week, Pitonyak called Cave "my best friend" and said he was in an alcohol and Xanax-induced blackout that left him with no memory of firing a bullet into her chest.

His defense was dealt a blow early Monday morning when, in advance of closing arguments, the judge ruled jurors could not consider lesser charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide as alternatives to a murder conviction. Beginning in jury selection, Pitonyak's attorneys had sought to convince the jurors that the lesser charges, which do not require a specific intent to do harm, were more appropriate.

Without those options, jurors faced a stark choice between intentional murder and a complete acquittal.

In her summation, prosecutor Stephanie McFarland told jurors they had only to look at the treatment of Cave's dead body for evidence of his state of mind toward her.

Her corpse, partially dismembered and pierced with stab wounds, was discovered in the bathtub of Pitonyak's apartment the same day he fled to Mexico.

"He sawed her head off. He sawed her hands off. He stabbed her in the face. He stabbed her in the chest," the prosecutor said. "If they mutilate the person's body, it tells you a lot about their intent toward that person."

Another prosecutor, Bill Bishop, ridiculed Pitonyak's testimony that it was his lover and fellow college student, Laura Hall, who took the lead in a botched attempt to cut up and dispose of the victim's body. The prosecutor noted that DNA around the body belonged to the victim and Pitonyak, not Hall.

"She managed to do it without leaving any DNA. She's an absolute genius," Bishop said in a mocking tone.

Hall faces hindering apprehension charges at her own trial later this year for driving Pitonyak to Mexico in her Cadillac. She invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

Defense attorneys argued that Pitonyak may have accidentally discharged his 9 mm gun while trying to clear a round from the chamber. One of his lawyers, Sam Bassett, took pains to tell the jury he personally found the treatment of Cave's body disgusting. Turning away from the jury box and toward the defense table, Bassett said, "Colton, that conduct is inexcusable."

But, he added, that "repulsive behavior ... does not answer the question, 'Did he mean to kill his friend?'"

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated just an hour and 25 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. As the foreman pronounced the word "guilty," a cry of joy rose up from the gallery, where the victim's mother, siblings and 20 other friends and relatives were seated. Cave's ex-boyfriend, Scott Engle, clapped twice and thrust his fists in the air.

Pitonyak remained expressionless and calmly sipped water from a Styrofoam cup.

During an hour-long penalty phase, Cave's mother, Sharon, brought many of her supporters to tears as she recounted the effects of her daughter's murder.

"I take antidepressants now. Sleep is a hard thing to come by," she said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

She recalled her daughter, one of her four children, as the "bond" that kept the family together.

"Jennifer was everybody's favorite," she said prompting sighs and laughs from her sisters, brother and other relatives.

Cave, a petite redhead who had struggled with drugs since dropping out of college, was killed the day after she had landed a good job as an assistant at a law firm. Friends said the job appeared to be the first step in turning her life around.

The witnesses who took the stand on Pitonyak's behalf described a young man whose life was on the opposite trajectory. As a high school student, he had earned straight As.

His algebra teacher told jurors that Pitonyak's lowest grade was a 98 percent. A classmate, Louis Petit, described him as performing at "an almost genius level" and another friend, Ben Smith, told jurors he seemed destined for success.

"If you asked anybody, he had one of the brightest futures, and I mean, he was a good guy," he said.

Both classmates, however, said that in recent years Pitonyak's drug addiction made him unrecognizable.

"He was not the Colton that I knew. He was very solemn, very reserved, a definite change," Petit said.

His parents, Eddie and Bridgett, read statements detailing Pitonyak's childhood and his academic successes, which included admission to the university's prestigious business program and a partial academic scholarship.

Eddie Pitonyak, however, caused grumbling in the gallery when he spoke of his sorrow for "the accident with Jennifer." Bridgett Pitonyak addressed the victim's mother directly from the witness stand.

"I only met Jennifer once, but she was lovely," she said.

Sharon Cave, however, lowered her head and shook it in a slow, "No."

Defense attorney Roy Minton asked jurors to sentence Pitonyak to no more than 20 years in prison.

"This boy is salvageable," he said.

Prosecutors asked for a life sentence. Under state law, the jury could have sentenced him to as short a term as probation and as long a term as 99 years.

The jurors returned with the 55-year recommendation after two hours of deliberations. Sharon Cave's boyfriend, Jim Sedwick, who found the victim's body, noted outside court that there was only a two-and-a-half-year functional difference between the jury's sentence and the life term. In Texas, those sentenced to life are eligible for parole in 30 years.

Pitonyak's parents left court shielding their faces. His attorneys said they planned to appeal the judge's exclusion of lesser charges and other issues.


Trial set for college student accused of slaying, dismembering woman after date

Jan. 26, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas — Jennifer Cave had dropped out of college and struggled with drugs, but when she phoned her mother on Aug. 16, 2005, she was bursting with good news: A law firm in the state's capital had offered her a great job.

Her mother could tell the 21-year-old was thrilled with her new legal assistant position. Here was a job that seemed to offer concrete proof that the sweet, bubbly young woman finally was getting her life back on track.

So when the firm called the next day to ask why Cave had not shown up for work, her mother immediately sensed something was wrong.

Her worst fears were confirmed when her daughter was discovered dead in a bathtub at an acquaintance's apartment. She had been shot in the chest, and her body was partially dismembered.

The acquaintance, Colton Pitonyak, a University of Texas student who had taken Cave to dinner on the night she was killed, goes on trial for her murder this week in Travis County Superior Court.

Prosecutors have a mountain of evidence against Pitonyak, including a surveillance tape showing his purchase of the hacksaw used to sever the victim's head and hands.

But the case still has its mysteries. Among them is motive.

Pitonyak, 24, and Cave had no history of discord. The crime scene, as gruesome as a horror movie, is difficult to reconcile with Pitonyak, a well-liked and intelligent finance major who had grappled with drug addiction, but had no record of violence.

Also unanswered is the role of Pitonyak's ex-girlfriend, Laura Hall, who ferried him to Mexico in her Cadillac after the killing. The 22-year-old woman, whom one friend said considered herself Bonnie to Pitonyak's Clyde, will face hindering apprehension charges at a later trial.

If convicted of murder, Pitonyak, a one-time National Merit Scholar, faces life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Searching for Jennifer

The victim's mother, Sharon Cave, initiated a search for her daughter soon after receiving the call from the law firm on Aug. 17, 2005. She filed a missing persons report with the police and contacted her daughter's friends.

Jennifer Cave, whose family lived in Corpus Christi, first moved to the Austin area to attend Texas State University, but quit after one semester. She worked at a restaurant and took classes at a community college. Occasionally, she also used drugs.

Her roommate told Sharon Cave that Jennifer had not returned to their apartment from a date with a man named Colton. Increasingly worried, Sharon Cave obtained her daughter's cellphone records and dialed the numbers listed for the night of Aug. 16.

Among the people she called was Pitonyak, who told her that he had last seen her daughter when they had parted at midnight. He had no idea where she might be, he told her. But another friend contradicted Pitonyak.

Michael Rodriguez told Sharon Cave that he had talked briefly with her daughter an hour later — at 1:05 a.m. — and she was still with Pitonyak and he was behaving erratically. As they spoke, Rodriguez told police, it sounded as if the couple were walking through a parking lot and Cave was trying to calm Pitonyak, who, she said, had tried to break into one car and was urinating on another.

"Rodriguez stated Jennifer told him that Colton was very upset that he had lost his cell telephone and that she was going to help him find it. Rodriguez stated he asked Jennifer if she was okay, and she told him she was and that she would call him back," a detective who interviewed Rodriguez later wrote.

Cave never called her back, Rodriguez said.

Investigators went to Pitonyak's off-campus apartment and found both Cave's and Pitonyak's cars parked there. No one answered his door, however.

Police told Sharon Cave and her boyfriend, Jim Sedwick, that they lacked grounds to search his apartment and left the scene.

The next day, with Cave still missing and no sign of Pitonyak, Sedwick forced his way into the apartment.

"Sedwick advised officers he entered the apartment through the front window and began yelling for Jennifer. Sedwick advised as he walked through the hallway he smelled a foul odor and immediately realized something was wrong," according to a police report.

In the bathroom, Sedwick encountered a gory scene.

Jennifer Cave's bloody body lay in pieces in the bathtub. A hacksaw rested on her abdomen. Her chest was marked by knife wounds. An autopsy would later determine that she had been killed by a bullet that struck her right arm and torso. A second shot had been fired into her head after she was dead.

Toxicology tests showed Cave had methamphetamines, marijuana and alcohol in her system when she was killed.

Investigators summoned to the scene found a knife and a machete, both marked with blood, in the apartment. There was one bullet shell under her body and another on the coffee table in the living room.

Detectives traced the hacksaw to a hardware store, where they found a tape of Pitonyak strolling the aisles on Aug. 17, after Cave's death.

An employee told police that Pitonyak had smelled strongly of alcohol. The store owner said that when he had asked why Pitonyak needed the saw, he replied that he wanted to "cut up a turkey." He noted that Pitonyak also purchased ammonia, towels, carpet cleaner, large plastic bags, gloves, a face mask and odor eliminator.

Police filed a murder charge against Pitonyak and began searching for him. As they looked, authorities learned all they could about Pitonyak. He had grown up in Little Rock, Ark., and graduated from a Catholic high school there, where he had earned top grades and a scholarship to the University of Texas.

"He was a very bright student, and held a lot of promise," a former teacher told the Austin American-Statesman.

In recent years, however, Pitonyak seemed to jettison his clean-cut, academic image. On the popular social networking site, he used the screen name "ILoveMoneyAndHos" and listed his college graduation date as 2010 — nine years after he entered the university.

Among his favorite quotes was one from Al Capone: "You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone."

Pitonyak also was in trouble for drugs. He did a stint in rehab, and in 2004, he was arrested for drug possession after police found cocaine and illegally obtained prescription sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication in his apartment. He pleaded to a misdemeanor and served 20 days in jail, but his lawyer would later acknowledge he remained "up to his eyebrows" in drugs.

Using signals from his cellphone, police determined that Pitonyak had crossed into Mexico.

Another break came when the father of his former girlfriend and fellow University of Texas student, Laura Hall, contacted police. Loren Hall told investigators that four days after the killing, she had e-mailed him and asked to remove everything from her apartment. He suspected that she might be with Pitonyak.

Armed with this information, authorities combed border surveillance video and found an image of Hall's green Cadillac crossing into Mexico on Aug. 18 at 2:41 a.m., the night following Cave's murder.

On Aug. 23, Mexican authorities found Pitonyak and Hall in a Holiday Inn in the town of Piedras Negras. They drove the couple to the border, where Pitonyak was arrested by U.S. law enforcement agents and Hall was allowed to leave on her own.

Homicide detectives from Austin interviewed a hotel clerk who said the couple had asked him questions about Mexico's extradition policy and how they might sell the car to make some quick cash. The clerk, Pedro Fernandez, told the officers he was suspicious when the pair said they could not return to the United States to get the title for the vehicle.

"White people don't want to go back to their country? What's going on?" he said.

The same day as Pitonyak's arrest, a friend of Hall's phoned police and said that she was bragging about having helped Pitonyak. The friend, Said Aziz, told authorities that she said she was desperately love with him, to the point of seeing them as "Bonnie and Clyde," and believed that with her assistance, he might "walk" from the charges.

"She told him that she wanted to protect Colton and that she wanted to help him," according to a police report.

When Aziz expressed shock that she would try to assist "an axe-murderer," she replied that the death was "an accident" and said, "There is a big difference between manslaughter and first-degree murder."

Police quickly arrested Hall on charges of hindering apprehension.

Facing her own felony trial this year, Hall is not expected to be a witness for either side at Pitonyak's trial.

His lawyer had not specified a defense, but in comments during jury selection, he indicated that Pitonyak and Cave were "the best of friends." He said his client may take the stand to give his account of the events that lead to Cave's death.

The attorney, Roy Minton, also said he plans to ask the judge to allow jurors to consider two lesser charges: manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The eight men and six women of the jury, a panel that includes two alternates, is set to hear opening statements Tuesday morning.



home last updates contact