Episode 3: Vacation
Haley Butler: Yellow police tape wraps around a street-facing corner of The Orange Tree condos. Neighbors watch as police officers and detectives stream in and out of the complex that’s a few blocks from the University of Texas at Austin.
Tinu Thomas: News vans line West Campus and reporters set up their cameras to interview students and parents about how they feel. Yesterday, a body was found in Unit 88 of the Orange Tree and police have yet to make an arrest.
KVUE Audio: The 911 call Thursday night brought police to West Campus. And with the officers came a new sense of uncertainty for area residents.
Haley: In Colton Pitonyak’s hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, his friend Aly gets a call. The person on the other line is frantic. Aly doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Aly: I remember the phone ringing, a landline. I was sitting in the kitchen, the mother picking up the phone, and I just remember her face. And I remember seeing her literally, she dropped to the floor and started hysterically crying and dropped the phone and burst into tears and she could barely speak. And I was like, so confused. I did not even know what to think, like it was just so… all of it was so bizarre and that automatically, my mother…. she automatically was like, oh my god, Colton’s dead. You know, like, we automatically knew like, there was more to this story.
Tinu: A few days pass and the media reports that the body isn’t Colton’s. He’s alive. In fact, he’s the only suspect police are looking for…and he’s missing.
KVUE Audio: On Monday Austin Police released Colton Pitonyak’s arrest warrant and they’re charging him with intentional murder — (Police officer: This was acquaintance on acquantance.) — We now know that the last call that Jennifer Cave made from her cellphone was to her friend at 1:05 am, Thursday. She was concerned about Pitonyak’s behavior. During the call, she told her friend that Colton Pitonyak was very upset after losing his cell phone. The next day, Cave’s parents called police because she didn’t show up to her new job.
Haley: I’m Haley Butler
Tinu: And I’m Tinu Thomas. This is the third episode of the Orange Tree.
Haley: When we first met Colton’s parents, Eddie and Bridget, they were beaming, not because they were particularly excited to meet us but because Bridget had just received a video of her baby granddaughter swimming. Colton’s brother’s daughter.
Tinu: Eddie looks like an older version of his son. He speaks in careful, measured sentences and gets teary eyed when talking about Colton. He wore a billowy western shirt, tucked neatly into a Texas-sized buckle. He was prepared for us—Even brought notes to our interview that he referred to the whole time. Bridget also had notes- they were written out on an iPad, but she barely looked at them and was quick to answer any questions about Colton.
Haley: Neither she nor Eddie had ever talked to the media. They ducked past reporters during the trials and have since turned down all interview requests… Until now. We got the feeling that Bridget has been waiting years to talk about her son.
Bridget Pitonyak: Well, you know, he started, uh, talking way before he walked and he was always just very verbal and always wanting to learn. Uh, he read at age three. And part of that is because when his brother Dustin would go to kindergarten and would come home, Colton would be like, teach me everything you learned this day. And he did. And so, uh, in fact we didn’t even know he was reading. My mother came and he was reading her a little book and I thought he had memorized it. And so she said, I think he’s reading.
Tinu: Eddie runs a farm equipment manufacturing company. When his boys were little, he inherited his family’s farm. And while living there, Colton developed a love for animals.
Bridget: Colton’s very allergic to cats and he would just want to carry them around and we have a picture of him where his eyes are swollen, almost shut, but he’s got that cat, you know, carrying it around. So, you know, he just, uh, that’s, that’s kind of Colton in a nutshell.
Haley: Eddie took his sons, Colton and Dustin, on hunting and fishing trips growing up. He assumed Colton would enjoy hunting and fishing as much as he loved being around the animals on the farm. Dustin did. But Colton … not so much.
Eddie Pitonyak: He went… I mean, he went duck hunting and deer hunting with us, but he just, it-
Bridget: was not his thing.
Tinu: Did he have a problem hurting the animals?
Bridget: When they would fish, he would never gut the fish. His brother would always do that and he’d say, Oh, I’m not doing that.
Eddie: One day I asked Colton, I said, are you anti hunter? And he said, no, are you anti guitar player, that’s Colton. He just came back and I said no, you know, hah. But Colton enjoyed playing guitar and I enjoyed going hunting with his brother. It just didn’t pull his chain.
Bridget: Colton was always more, oh my friends and I are going to go to the skate park or we’re going to go play our guitars or you know, things like that. So, I don’t know, they didn’t really hang out too much together.
Tinu: Although Colton and Dustin had different interests growing up, their parents had a way of keeping the family close.
Eddie: I grew up Catholic and Bridget converted when we got married. And Colton was really always wanting to serve and help and volunteer if the priest was short of servers. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Catholic mass, but he’d go volunteer to serve and it was just Colton and he always wanted to do it.
Tinu: Eddie and Bridget enrolled Colton and Dustin at the all-boys Catholic High School in town.
Bridget: He tried one time to talk us into letting him go to Central and we were like, no, because the boys’ school had Father Tribou who is well known, but he kept a firm hand and it kept the boys in line because what they did on the weekend, somehow father Tribou knew about it on Monday morning and he would announce it over the intercom system as to what everybody did over the weekend. Yeah, that really kept them in line.
Haley: Colton excelled here, his math teacher Tommy Coy remembers Colton as one of his brightest students.
Tommy Coy: He seemed very focused on getting into a good school, being a National Merit scholar, having a great ACT score, his class rank was important. Catholic High is known for its academics, I think, by its nature, it’s very, very competitive. And most of the boys that are there are very driven academically of the… the friends that I remember, Colton was probably the most academic of them.
Tinu: To balance both academic and social success, Colton raced to finish his homework everyday before the bell so he could hang out with friends after school.
Haley: He was the type of clean-cut friend that your parents trusted…
Aly: He is the only guy that was allowed to spend the night at my house, on the couch in highschool, college, everything. I was always allowed to go places if Colton was there. They thought of him as the responsible one that would always tell the truth and you know, he’d always answer my mother’s phone calls if I didn’t answer my phone.
Tinu: Aly was a cheerleader at Catholic High’s all-girl sister school. She remembers that Colton loved to party and drink.
Haley: But she said she never saw him drive when there was drinking involved… and never saw him do anything more than just drink. Colton was careful about what he put into his body and in high school he got into fitness and nutrition and it sometimes took to a comical extreme.
Aly: I remember actually, a funny story. He and our other good friend Louie. They entered like a bodybuilding contest.
Bridget: He and Louie decided to get in a bodybuilding contest when they were in high school. So they worked out and everything and then they went and they got these spray tans. They looked like orange monsters
Aly: We gave them hell for it.
Tinu: Aly is still close to Eddie and Bridget.
Bridget: We still see Aly all the time. In fact, she calls me her second mom.
Aly: I consider them to be like, family.
Haley: Colton’s academic performance made him a strong candidate for several top universities and colleges, but after visiting Austin, he made up his mind… He wanted to go to The University of Texas.
Tinu: Colton receives a scholarship to attend the highly regarded McCombs School of Business. Choosing the University of Texas was a surprise to his family, but choosing business isn’t.
Bridget: I laugh, I say he was an entrepreneur from the time he could talk. I was going to have a yard sale one day and I told the boys about it and Colton asked his grandmothers for paperback books and things. He cleaned his old bike up and sold it. He set up a lemonade stand. And so at the end of the day, he had, you know, cash in his pocket and he was always, he was always doing something like that.
Tinu: Colton moves into the largest, loudest dorm on campus. It’s filled with freshmen who blasted music at all hours. But it didn’t matter, Colton was happy to be independent and away from Catholic highschool and all its rules. He doesn’t have to wear a uniform to class anymore and the dorms are co-ed.
Bridget: As soon as we go all this stuff in there, he was ready to get rid of us, you know, how, you know, college students like go mom and dad go and, and we got in the car and of course I just cried and cried and cried. But, uh, oh, hey, he loved it. You know, he adjusted.
Haley: Once he got to UT, Colton upped his drinking game. He joined a fraternity his sophomore year, Delta Tau Delta, the same fraternity that famous alumni Matthew Mcconaughey pledged to about 15 years before Colton got there.
Tinu: For a while he kept his grades up— a few B’s but some A’s too. Harder drugs are available around campus, but… he’s still JUST drinking. Aly remembers Colton finding adderall in her room during a visit back home.
Aly: Colton like literally took the bottle, walked to the bathroom, dumped it out in the toilet and was like, you don’t need this crap. He was like, prescription or not, drugs or drugs. And he was like, you’ve been fine. You’ve done just fine all these years in school without having to take drugs. You don’t need to start doing it now. You know, um, I care about you, I’m your friend and you don’t need to mess with that crap… and I was so mad at him,
Tinu: Early in our reporting process, we tried to reach out to everyone in this case, including Colton himself.
Haley: But we didn’t have high hopes. Colton had never accepted an interview request before.
Tinu: We were sitting in class one day when we got the notification that Colton had denied our request…
Haley: A prison communications officer told us that once a prisoner denies an interview request it’s extremely rare that they go back on that.
Tinu: But after a few back and forths, Colton did. He wanted to talk to us.
Haley: We drove to Abilene, Texas, a small oil city in the middle of West Texas to talk to him in prison. Prison rules give members of the media one hour. One of the first questions we asked was what was going on with him when he was a student at our school.
Tinu: How did he go from being an A-student to one who barely attended classes?
Colton: I think at the time, you know, like I said, I was kind of lost. I was just, I went up there to go to school and then just kinda got caught up in this endless party and was just kind of living moment to moment.
Haley: He told us that everything changed when he had turned 20. Almost overnight his no-tolerance stance on drugs took a complete turn.
Colton: When I was about 20, I met a guy and he dealt cocaine and he’s like, try this, try this. And I was terrified, but I tried it and I was like, oh this is fun, oh, I didn’t die. You know?
Haley: Coke led to harder drugs…like meth and heroin.
Colton: Now all of a sudden I’m staying up for a day or two, you know, and it just turns from that partying too much and waking up late for class to… where did Friday go? You know you’re out and all of a sudden it’s Sunday night.
Haley: Xanax is a prescription drug commonly used to treat anxiety problems. It’s so powerful that many people abuse it.
Tinu: Across college campuses, Xanax is so popularly used as a party drug that it’s taken on the street name, bars.
Haley: One time when Colton’s mom was visiting Austin, he told her that his anxiety was bothering him.
Bridget: I took him to the doctor and I had a fit when I took him to the drugstore and realized that doctor prescribed Xanax. Colton said, no, I’m not going to take it, I’m not gonna take it. But we know that was not true.
Colton: The pills, you know, I tell people all the time, look, I used meth, cocaine, heroin. You know, they’re bad. They’re not good for you. But do those, don’t mess with the pills. It just takes you outside your personality.
Tinu: If you were a student at UT looking for drugs in 2005, you might find yourself at Colton’s place, cause that’s when he started selling the drugs that he’d been using.
Colton: I got down there and I just wanna you know, I was trying to be tough. I was, my friend calls it the drug thug thing, you know, kind of the suburban gangster kinda. I liked it, the drug dealing thing, because it kinda kept me as like the center of the party, you know.
Haley: He’s a middleman for students who felt more comfortable buying drugs from a fellow student. But, being in the middle comes with its own troubles.
Colton: I started kind of getting involved with some people who were acting, you know the real criminals. And it wasn’t that I was in too deep, I just I was too friendly, you know, like I was too soft hearted and too friendly to be a drug dealer, you know, because I’m fronted out pretty much everything I had. And pretty much everybody owed me money when I got locked up.
Haley: One of these new friends was Jason Mack.
Tinu: Jason wasn’t a college student; he was a commercial painter.
Haley: And he had been in and out of jail.
Colton: I was this white college kid trying to be tough and here he just came out of prison. So I see this guy with tattoos, he knows about gangs and drugs and stuff. So I think he’s cool.
Haley: Jason said they met because they both enjoyed taking ecstasy. We spoke to Jason about this at the West Texas prison he’s serving time at for an unrelated crime.
Mack: Colton’s like a really down to earth kind of dude, and like… money, like even if he was the richest guy in the world, if you were his friend when he wasn’t the richest guy in the world, you’re his friend when he becomes the richest guy in the world, you know what I mean?
Tinu: Colton’s apartment turned into a nonstop party.
Mack: Yeah, it was like known to be a spot where people partied and hanged out and stuff. When it started it wasn’t like, I’m gonna throw a party, it would just… become a party. He would give away a lot of drugs and that’s going to get college kids there. Ecstasy and music and pretty girls, they were going to come, people are going to come. More girls there are, the more guys are going to come, the more girls are going to come, people are going to come. If you were looking for it, Colton knew where to get it.
Haley: Colton had few friends he could really rely on at the time. Most of the people around him were there because of his drugs.
Tinu: This is what Jason had to say about it.
Mack: When I would come over there and hang out, like it would, it would be cool. Like he could go to sleep and I’d be like, I got you, bro, go to sleep, you know what I”m saying? [unintelligible]it’s crazy how people take over your house while you’re asleep. Cause people come in and like some of those guys that come in and steal from him while he was like passed out because uh, they’d know where his key was or something like that and they would just like steal stuff out of his place while he’s asleep.
Tinu: Jennifer was one of the few who cared about Colton beyond his drugs.
Haley: Drugs WERE a big part of their friendship. He recalled times that they’d get high at his place and they’d role play as animals— Him a lion and her a frog. He even had a nickname for her, J-Ribbit.
Tinu: But after a while Jennifer took a step back from doing so many drugs. In the spring and summer of 2005 she cleaned up, staying away from Colton and all of his drug habits. But Jason Mack remembers the one time she came back, a time when Colton was especially struggling. He was on heroin at a friend’s place and Jennifer came by. When she saw him, she tried to talk him down.
Jason Mack: She was like telling him like, dude, what are you doing? Like you’ve got to pull it together. And he was, he was upset, you know what I mean? Cause he was really embarrassed and when she left, he said it like, man, you know, I’m tripping. Like, I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta get it together, dude. I’m going to flunk out of school. I’m here on a scholarship. Like, what am I doing?
Tinu: During that same time someone else cared deeply for Colton. University of Texas student Laura Hall was head over heels for him. She ran errands for Colton, hung around his place whenever she could and took every opportunity to be around him. Colton said he didn’t mind the attention at the time.
Colton: I mean, she, you know, she was nice, we got along, you know, we were friendly and like I said, it was kind of a, you know, I was kind of an ass all the time. And, you know, it’s like, hey, I got someone I can call for a late night booty call or something like that, you know, it’s not that, you know, I absolutely disliked her or something like that. At the time I was just like, hey she’s kind of nice, somebody to hang out with late, you know?
Haley: Laura was a government major who aspired to be a lawyer. She worked part-time at an Austin law firm. She loved to swim and was a member of UT’s rowing team.
Tinu: She’s a slender dark-haired girl with piercing eyes. Before UT, she went to a private school in east Texas where she was a good student and a passionate member of the debate team.
Haley: Laura’s a hard person to figure out. She was smart but reckless. Friends say she didn’t like to be alone and she had a FIERY personality.
Colton: Yeah, I mean, when I first met her, she was… I don’t know if she was dating a guy or hooking up with him. The one I met her through… I actually walked up on his apartment while she was outside burning some of his clothes. So I was like, you know, who’s the character, the crazy chick over here? Pretty much I think, anybody you talked to knew her, there was just these emotional swings and kind of a, you know, it just, I mean, she’s kind of crazy, you know, it’s really the only way to put it.
Tinu: Laura saw Colton as a handsome dark-haired guy who was popular with women. He wore leather jackets and he hosted parties at his place. When he spent time with her, she felt like she was on top of the world.
Haley: On August 16th, Colton’s car had been impounded. Laura was the one who offered to drive him to get his car.
Tinu: After getting his car, Colton told Laura that he’d call her when he got back home and made plans to hang out later that night. But he never did call.
Tinu: At his trial, Colton testified about what he remembers of that next day. This is what he said.
Haley: During the early morning hours of August 17th, Colton calls Laura to come over and hang out. He’s hungover and stumbles to the bathroom… and that’s where he finds the body of Jennifer Cave. He says he doesn’t know how her body got there. He calls Laura back, urging her to not come over.
Tinu: She goes over anyway.
Haley: When Laura gets to his apartment he is panicking and trying to figure out what to do. They don’t call 9-1-1.
Tinu: Then, instead of trying to figure out what happened the night before, Colton copes by continuing to take pills and drink… getting further away from reality and creating even more holes in his memory. He explains that this is the reason for his blurred recollection of that day.
Haley: But he remembers some things … like getting into Laura’s car that night.
Colton: I had just turned off and I was just kind of along for the ride, you know, I stayed with that bottle in my mouth. And just, I was really just spouting nonsense. You know, I think I remember saying we should go here we should go there. She’s like, no, no, we gotta go to Mexico.
Haley: As Colton and Laura near the Mexican border, they see flashing police lights in their rearview mirror.
Tinu: But the officer doesn’t pull them over on suspicion of murder. Instead, Laura gets a speeding ticket and the two are getting closer to the U.S. border town of Del Rio, four hours away from the crime scene.
Haley: Laura keeps a cool head. She drives them into Mexico and gets a hotel. She’s trying to keep Colton’s anxiety at bay.
Colton: I remember very, very little from that time, you know, just as far as I know, I remember just like freaking out and crying a lot.
Tinu: At the hotel, Colton insists on keeping the curtains drawn, but he won’t stop peeking through them. He’s paranoid and believes someone will surely come banging on the door at any moment. As he paces around the room, freaking out, Laura begs him to relax and take a shower.
Colton: I remember her trying to sober me up and saying, like, you know, we got to figure this out, we’ll figure this out, you know. And I think at that point, I knew, like there’s, there’s no figuring this out, you know, this isn’t something that’s fixable, you know, this isn’t something you just, it just happens and you just run off into the sunset with some love story and disappear in Mexico.
Haley: Austin defense attorney Joe James Sawyer, who will represent Laura years later, says it’s no surprise she would go to Mexico with Colton.
Joe James Sawyer: She was clearly, no one doubted it, obsessed with him. I mean, love is the improper word. Obsession I think is the right word.
Tinu: Back in Austin, Detective Mark Gilchrest and his partner David Fugitt get assigned to the case.
David Fugitt: I’ve been with the police department for 25 years now. And I’m currently in my 16th year in the homicide unit.
Haley: Detective Fugitt looks and dresses like a detective you’d see on a crime TV show. He has short cropped hair and wears a uniform that includes a navy windbreaker and his APD badge. In his free time, he watches Court TV.
Tinu: Fugitt’s passionate about his job and the cases he works on. This one in particular, he says, stands out in his memory. For our interview, Fugitt brought a color-coded calendar that detailed exact dates and times from this case. He color-coded and printed it out himself.
Haley: Colton kept his cell phone on him during the drive, making it relatively easy for police to track his movement. Detectives enlist US Marshals to find Colton.
Fugitt: It was at that point, we had discovered that he had traveled from the area of Austin to checkpoint Del Rio. So we had reason to believe that he had crossed into Mexico.
Tinu: Detectives still don’t know exactly where he is in Mexico or how he got there. Colton’s white Toyota Avalon is still at the The Orange Tree parking garage.
Haley: The next day, Laura and Colton drive an hour and a half to another town, into another hotel. The Cadillac rolls into the crowded parking lot of the Casa Blanca hotel in Piedras Negras.
Tinu: Casa Blanca hotel manager, Pedro Fernandez, testifies later at Colton’s trial.
Prosecutor Stephanie McFarland: Did you have the occasion to come in contact with two young, American customers who appeared to be college students?
Pedro Fernandez: Yes.
McFarland: What was the first time you noticed one of the two individuals?
Fernandez: As the female approached the front desk, kind of pushing through the crowd, it was very crowded, and asking if there was availability for a room.
Haley: On their second day at the hotel, Colton and Laura are drinking and hanging out like they’re on vacation. The two spend time on the hotel lobby computer looking up flights to a place south of Mexico City.
Tinu: Colton’s a big fan of U-F-C and M-M-A. He remembers that there’s a big fight on TV that night. Fernandez, who is managing the lobby, overhears Laura and Colton’s conversation about it. He invites them over to watch it at his place.
Fernandez: We just kept talking about it and he seemed very interested in it and they didn’t seem like bad people to me so I went ahead and invited them over to watch it with me.
Tinu: At Fernandez’s home they’re all drinking. As usual, Colton’s had a big head start. He asks Fernandez about selling Laura’s Cadillac because they’re running out of money, but Laura doesn’t have the car’s title.
Haley: Fernandez tells them to cross back into the United States and get a copy of the title. Colton tells him that they can’t do that. Fernandez gets suspicious about what these two American college kids are up to.
Tinu: When the two start talking about legal matters. That concerns Fernandez even more.
McFarland: While you all were at your home, did the defendant, Mr. Pitonyak, ask you some questions about extradition?
Fernandez: Yes, he did.
McFarland: What specifically did Mr. Pitonyak ask you?
Fernandez: He asked me if there was extradition laws in Mexico or if I knew any other countries that didn’t have extradition laws.
Haley: Fernandez wonders why they can’t go back to the United States. He picks up the phone and calls a few friends – one who’s a border patrol officer.
Fernandez: The person that I know, the other person, called me and told me to be careful because of something that happened in Austin. Pretty much that’s when I knew the news, what had happened over there. After I knew that and I knew that was this person, then I got really worried.
Haley: He wants them to leave.
Tinu: Colton tries to get up and leave, but when he does he stumbles around and falls. He lands in Fernandez’s son’s playpen.
Haley: Laura joins him in the playpen. Colton has a small straw sombrero on top of his baseball cap and a Mickey Mouse doll in his hand. They are both drunkenly enjoying the moment and smiling. They look like two carefree college students on spring break.
Tinu: Fernandez snaps a picture. Eventually he sends it to detective David Fugitt.
Fugitt: It was just unbelievable. I think the photo speaks for itself. You know, they say a picture’s worth 1000 words. I think this one’s probably worth a million.
Haley: The photo hits Austin newsrooms. Journalists crowd over computer screens to gawk at the two fugitives… having fun? Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle remembers this moment.
Smith: They were kind of, you know, the way it was portrayed at least was sort of whooping it up basically in Mexico and having a good old time, on the lamb, sort of natural-born killers style. As if it was some sort of romantic thing.
Tinu: Laura has been sending emails from Piedras Negras to her parents back in Texas.
Haley: “Hey – phone is out of area. I’ll email again tomorrow. Everything ok.”
Tinu: Laura’s father, Loren, replies the next day: “Life is precious and fleeting. Take care of yourself.”
Haley: Laura writes back: “Am trying my best. Very Happy. Finally. I’ll let you know what’s up later tonight or tomorrow. Delete emails. Don’t say you’ve heard from me to anyone and don’t worry no matter what you might hear. Not sure how best to handle but I guess just on vacation.”
Haley: Laura sends another email a few hours later. “I hear Colt’s famous. I left the key to my apartment underneath the plant out front. Rather than tell my friends, I have a lot of expensive stuff in there that you bought me. I suggest you get a trailer or something and empty out my place, sell it, don’t care, before the 31st or actually I might do it ASAP. Email me back if you’re still my friends. Love you always Laura.”
Tinu: Her dad replies the next morning.“What’s up on the real. Call me so I can be sure. This doesn’t sound like you, it sounds like someone else emailed me. So call me collect or I will need legal advice.”
Haley: Loren Hall calls the police out of concern for his daughter.
Fugitt: He had reason to believe that Laura Hall may have been with Colton. So then we started researching her vehicle as well. She owned a 1994 dark green Cadillac Deauville Concord.
Tinu: A few days later, police receive video of the car Laura’s dad described to them. It’s surveillance footage showing Laura handing over her passport at a checkpoint she drove through on the way to Mexico.
Fugitt: To obtain the license plate number, we provided it to customs agents, and learned that she had actually crossed into the border from Del Rio into Mexico at 2:36am on the 18th.
Haley: In the video, Laura calmly talks to the border patrol agent before driving through. You can’t see Colton, but he’s in the passenger seat. Now, police are looking for two people.
Haley: While Colton and Laura are in Mexico, Sharon Cave and Jim Sedwick return to Corpus Christi. They have to prepare for Jennifer’s funeral.
Tinu: Jim Sedwick is still the only one in the family that knows the details of what happened to Jennifer’s body.
Haley: Up to this point the only thing the public and Jennifer’s family know is that she was murdered.
Jim Sedwick: All-day Saturday, all day Sunday. I hadn’t told a soul, so that’s pretty hard not to talk to somebody.
Haley: Jim is following orders from the lead detective.
Sedwick: Mark said, he said, the reason you can’t tell anybody he said is because if you do, we’re going to have people coming out of the woodwork taking credit for this crime. And he said, it’s really gonna hurt us in finding out who really did this.
Tinu: Right before the funeral, Jim finds out from a friend that news stations are about to reveal the gruesome details of the crime to the public.
Sedwick: They’re fixing to break the story. Well that, excuse me, it was an oh shit moment. I’m standing up there telling Sharon and the daughters and everybody else in the family that’s there about the mutilation of Jennifer. And whew, that was for me, that was probably the most emotional part of it because the girls, none of the girls knew. Nobody knew. Sharon didn’t know.
Colton: Don’t really remember anybody knocking on the door, but I remember machine guns and people coming in and just freaking out because, you know, I’m lucky they didn’t shoot me, you know. And I was just like going with them cooperate, you know, and I remember seeing the lights when they drove to the border and passed me over. You know, I was like, I was so drunk when they got me, you know, but the, the adrenaline of it kind of snapped to. I do remember getting arrested and going to the tail and everything.
KVUE/KXAN Tape: “Colton Pitonyak’s arrest was at the hands of Marshalls” — “Pitonyak is accused of shooting and partially dismembering 21 year old Jennifer Cave, whose body was discovered in his west campus apartment late Thursday night. Police say Pitonyak was seen buying a hacksaw, cleaners and odor eliminators later from a neighborhood hardwares store before he left for Mexico. ”
Haley: Colton and Laura are escorted across the border by Mexican authorities. U.S. Marshals are waiting for them on the American side.
Tinu: In Austin, six days after Colton and Laura crossed the border into Mexico, people finally get to see the man police suspect of committing this horrible crime.
Haley: He’s wearing a plain green t-shirt, oversized khaki shorts, and big white sneakers. His hair is a mess and he’s unshaven.
Tinu: He doesn’t look as scary as he looks defeated and disheveled.
Haley: Laura and Colton are separated and interrogated. Colton asks for a lawyer and doesn’t say much else. Officers only have an arrest warrant for Colton, so they let Laura go.
KVUE Tape: “The reason we did not arrest her is because we were conducting an investigation to determine the extent to which she had knowledge about what had transpired and to determine the extent to which she had assisted or aided the suspect in his escape.”
Tinu: Colton had not reached out to his parents while in Mexico like Laura had. All HIS parents know was that Jennifer Cave’s body was found in his apartment and that their son was nowhere to be found. Once in custody, Colton finally calls them.
Tinu: What was that conversation?
Bridget Pitonyak: Very short. Mom, you know, mom, dad, you know, I’ve been arrested and I’m sorry. I love you. I’m sorry. And that was pretty much it, wasn’t it?
Haley: But then, later that night, Bridget gets another call…
Bridget: Yeah, she was real friendly. Hello Mrs Pitonyak, this is Laura Hall. I’ve been with Colton in Mexico, you know, something like that. And then, um, I just wanted to call and see if you knew he’d been arrested. And I said, you know, it’s like, it was like five in the morning. And I said, yeah, we know that. And then I just, you know, I was so shocked by that. I just kinda hung up.
Tinu: Laura also calls a friend named Said Aziz and confides in him about her last six days…
KVUE Tape: “Aziz says Laura Hall told him she would tell police that she just thought they, meaning she and Pitonyak, were on vacation and that she would be okay. When Aziz called Pitonyak ‘an axe murderer’ and questioned Hall about why she was helping him, she said that Aziz should not be judging Colton and (quote) ‘it was an accident.’ Hall allegedly goes on to say ‘there’s a big difference between manslaughter and first degree murder and if I help him, he might walk.’ Aziz then asked Hall why she would help someone who’s accused of killing a girl much like herself and she responded by saying that she loved him and (quote) ‘that’s just how I roll.’”
Haley: She talks to him three times that day and tells him she’s been (quote) “all up in this shit since two hours after it started.” She also says she’s going to tell police that she thought they were just on vacation.
Tinu: As Colton awaits his fate, Laura returns to Austin. She hangs out with a few friends, and she even tries to go to a concert downtown that very night—to see the band OK Go. But the show’s sold out.
Haley: While her friends take in the concert, Laura walks into a tattoo parlor. When she walks out, there’s fresh ink on her ankle. In purple and yellow curly font… it says — COLTON.