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BOOK REVIEW: A DESCENT INTO HELL
BY KATHRYN CASEY

We hope you enjoy this book review by Douglas R. Cobb.

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True crime readers, have I got the book for you! A Descent Into Hell, by Kathryn Casey, the true story of an alter boy, a cheerleader, and a twisted Texas murder, is a book youíll want to add to your reading lists. In the tradition of the best true crime books, the case of the murdered victim, Jennifer Cave, is almost a tribute to her life and memory. Her brutal murder and dismemberment by the former Catholic schoolboy and National Merit Scholar finalist Colton Aaron Pitonyak shocked everyone who had known Colton from his home state of Arkansas, and shocked the nation, when the news of it came out. As a resident myself of Arkansas, this book held perhaps a special interest for me. Itís a gripping account of what can happen to even the best and brightest of people once drugs like meth enter our lives and start to control them.

There are a lot of pages taken to build up to the actual murder of Jennifer Cave - over 140 - but, I feel the amount of pages is justified in order to provide background information on both Jennifer and Colton, to make them better known to the readers, and to add tension to the book. Itís important to know that, as with Colton, no one is born a murderer, and the people who commit such crimes at one time, in general, were thought of as normal kids, and were loved by their families. When events and circumstances and poor life decisions seemingly conspire against us, the best and brightest of us can become murderers and, in their ways, victims of what fate deals us. That is no excuse for the terrible crimes murderers perpetrate, but knowing about their lives previous to the murders makes us realize they are humans, though the acts they committed are monstrous.

Colton Pitonyak seemed to have it all: a family who loved him, a privileged lifestyle of moderate wealth, excellent grades that earned him a $150,000 scholarship - most of the people who knew him expected his star to do nothing but rise to even greater heights, to become the next Donald Trump. He partied some while attending the all-boys Little Rock Catholic High School, but so did many of his fellow students. No one would have suspected that he would try to adopt the gangster Scarface-like persona he eventually did, and to become one of the University of Texasís most notorious drug dealers and murderers. The combination of his youth, his ego, alcohol, and drugs taken in immense quantities triggered the darker side of his being to come out, though, culminating in the brutal slaying of his friend Jennifer Cave.

Jennifer Cave was the All-American girl next door, a vibrant attractive blue-eyed redhead who did well in school and whose family had great hopes for her future. She deeply cared for everyone she meet, and tried to help anyone who needed help. Though she had experimented with pot in high school, she was a good student who didnít get into harder drugs until her path unfortunately crossed that of Colton Pitonyakís. They both hit it off, and Colton got her hooked onto meth, wanting her also to become more than just a good friend of his.

A Descent Into Hell portrays an American tragedy that occurs with to great a frequency in todayís world. Violence is idealized and criminals are too often considered by teenagers to be cool, because they live outside the boundaries of the law and flaunt it. Meth has become the drug of choice for many, and its addictiveness and long-term effects on peopleís health has made it one of the most dangerous drugs currently available. Violence, alcohol, and hard drug use to often spells a very bad end to lives, whether by murder, suicide, or accidental overdoses. Kathryn Casey, a Houston-based journalist whose previous true crime books such as Die, My Love and She Wanted It All, also are about murder cases in Texas, continues to prove she is one of the best writers of true crime books with A Descent Into Hell.

REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB

DO NOT REPRINT WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, DOUGLAS R. COBB


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