Fifteen years ago on Aug. 17, 2005, 21-year-old Jennifer Cave’s dismembered body was found in the bathtub of convicted murderer Colton Pitonyak’s apartment at the Orange Tree Condominiums in Austin.
Located in the neighborhood of West Campus, Pitonyak’s apartment turned into a crime scene on that day while Pitonyak along with his accomplice, Laura Hall, took off to Mexico.
Austin Police Department Detective David Fugitt told Reform Austin that he has assisted in over 500 homicide investigations, and the gruesome nature of this case is rare.
“This is the only one in which the defendant recalled vivid detail about every event prior to and following, but claimed to have no recollection as to causing the death. Defies reason,” said Fugitt. “Dismemberment of a human corpse is also rare.”
This year, two University of Texas students, Haley Butler and Tinu Thomas, have a long-form documentary podcast called “The Orange Tree Podcast,” in which they dig through court filings and host interviews with the families of Cave, Pitonyak and Hall.
When they started looking into the case, they felt connected to Cave, who died at the same age they were when they started this project, Thomas and Butler said in a statement given to the BrownWood Bulletin publication.
“We wanted to add some perspective on the victim’s life, and that’s not typically done in true crime podcasts,” said Butler.
Their project went live on July 14 and has since ranked No. 35 in the Apple Podcast all-genre list and No. 8 among true crime.
According to Fugitt, this is not the first time that this case has been covered but it is the first time that Pitonyak has ever agreed to speak about the incident to the press.
“The Orange Tree podcast has gained national acclaim. The book ‘A Descent Into Hell’ by Kathryn Casey highlighted the trials. National television shows such as ‘Court TV,’ ‘48 Hours,’ ‘Deadly Sins’ and ‘Snapped: Killer Couples’ have also covered the investigation over the years,” said Fugitt.
The podcast highlights Hall’s possibility of being the true murderer of Cave and according to a KXAN report, Pitonyak’s lawyers tried to convince a jury that she was the real murderer.
The detective disagrees.
“There is no doubt that Colton Pitonyak was solely responsible for the murder of Jennifer Cave,” said Fugitt.
Hall was released from her 10 year sentence five months early in 2018 while Pitonyak will not be eligible for parole until 2033, according to the KXAN report.
You can find the “Orange Tree Podcast” on podcast listening apps or at the Drag Production House’s website here.