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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

Harper True Crime, July 2008 ($7.99)
ISBN-10: 0061230871
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-123087-5

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Talk about an out of control, downward spiral...whew! Brutal and grisly best describe the horrendous crime that resulted from the lethal combination of a volatile personality in the throes of drug addiction and substance (alcohol) abuse, and two of the young women caught up in an unhealthy relationship with the abuser -- one trying to avoid the drugs and get her life back on track and the other seemingly enjoying the descent into hell...

Colton Pitonyak arrived at the University of Texas on a full scholarship. Jennifer Cave made her way to Austin, Texas for a new job. The friendly former cheerleader and the college student clicked together but gradually, the college student drifted away from his studies and into the dangerous world of drugs -- using and selling -- and he dragged the pretty red-haired Jennifer with him. Laura Hall, it seems, just went along for the "ride."

It's clear that the author has researched the case thoroughly and has valuable insights into both the nature of the crime and the many people whose lives have been forever changed by the selfish act of a cold-blooded killer.

I like the straight forward approach the author takes. We start at the beginning, move along through the university days, the drinking, the drugs, the students whose lives will become forever entwined in tragedy, on to the frightened and desperate search of a mother for her missing daughter, then through the investigation, and on through the ensuing trials. It's a very linear approach. No jumping around. No flashbacks. There is a chilling sense of foreboding in the first three pages but we don't know for sure what has happened until a gruesome discovery is made. As the story continues to develop, the reader will be drawn along almost as an unwilling participant getting ever closer to the truth behind the crime.

Readers will feel compelled to continue reading until the end. More than once I found my eyes welling up with tears as I wondered if justice would ever by served in this case.

If this weren't a recounting of an actual crime, it would make a haunting horror movie.

This is the first book I've read by this author. My all-time favorite true crime writer is Ann Rule. Now I will need to make some room for Ms. Casey's books next to my Ann Rule collection!

Other titles by this author include: EVIL BESIDE HER (originally published as THE RAPIST'S WIFE), SHE WANTED IT ALL, A WARRANT TO KILL, and DIE, MY LOVE.

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