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A Descent Into Hell: The True Story of an Altar Boy, a Cheerleader, and a Twisted Texas Murder Mass Market Paperback – June 24, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Kathryn Casey is one of the best in the true crime genre," --Ann Rule

"Kathryn Casey joins Carlton Stowers as the premier chroniclers of Texas crime," --NYT bestselling author Gregg Olsen

"Kathryn Casey stakes her claim as one of the best in the business," M. William Phelps, author of Love Her To Death

“Msterfully, Casey weaves a dark and disturbing look into a world of advantaged youths who throw it all away.” (Carlton Stowers)

About the Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Casey is an award-winning, Houston-based journalist, the author of six highly acclaimed true crime books, and the creator of the Sarah Armstrong mystery series. SINGULARITY, the first in the Armstrong series, was included in Booklist's best crime novel debuts of 2009, and Library Journal chose the third in the series, THE KILLING STORM, for its list of the best books of 2010. Casey's protagonist is a Texas Ranger/profiler headquartered in Company A, Houston. In addition, Ann Rule calls Casey, "one of the best in the true crime genre."  
     Casey has appeared on Oprah, Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Network, Court TV, Biography, Nancy Grace, E! Network, Investigation Discovery, and A&E.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061230871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061230875
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hello to Everyone:

I'm an immigrant to Texas from the upper Mid-west, but I moved here in the early eighties so I consider myself a naturalized Texan. Houston is an amazing place to live, exciting and full of life. I'd recommend it to anyone.

I ventured into true crime writing purely by accident. I was working at Houston City Magazine in the eighties when a fascinating murder took place in the Big Thicket, the wide expanse of pine forests that meld Texas and Louisiana. My editor suggested I cover the case. I did and, from that point on, I was hooked. I've never looked back.

Since then, I've written seven true crime books: "A Warrant to Kill," is on Houston's Kent McGowen case, that of a murderous deputy and the woman he terrorized. Next came "She Wanted It All," on Austin's incredible Celeste Beard case. It's hard to beat that one for twists and turns!

2007 introduced "Die My Love." It's an account of the Piper Rountree case, that of a Houston attorney and her professor ex-husband, Fred Jablin. The book is a fascinating, in-depth look at a train-wreck marriage that ended in a tragic murder.

June 2008 debuted "A Descent into Hell," on Austin's bizarre Colton Pitonyak case. Then, that November, "Evil Beside Her," a rerelease of "The Rapist's Wife," my first book, with a new title, cover, photos and an update. In 2010, "Shattered" hit bookstores, an account of the tragic case of Belinda Temple, a young mother murdered by her football star husband. And in 2012 the true crime book was "Deadly Little Secrets," on the sensational Matt Baker case out of Waco.

My foray into fiction began in 2009 with the birth of a mystery series featuring Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong, a single mom, investigator and profiler. The series started with "Singularity," followed by "Blood Lines," and "The Killing Storm." All the books have garnered stellar reviews, and the third was named a best book of 2010 by Library Journal.

There's been little publicity for any of my work, so it's all word-of-mouth. Yet that's carried "A Warrant to Kill" into a ninth printing and "She Wanted It All" into a seventh. "The Killing Storm" was only out for a few months when it went into a third printing. Truly remarkable!

The credit goes to all of you who read the books and recommend them to friends and family. Keep up the good work! Spread the word! It's appreciated!

I'm not sure how often I'll check in here, but you can always peruse my Website:, to keep abreast of upcoming events and new books. While you're on the site, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. And email me at I'll look forward to it!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Shanna McQueen on July 24, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Kathryn Casey tells a tragic story of drugs, obsession, murder, and dismemberment. As are all of Casey's books, DESCENT is impeccably researched and no stone is left unturned with regard to the individual histories of the offender and the victim. On the surface, the murder appears senseless... until you enter the dark world of Colton Pitonyak. A brilliant student turned drunken punk, turned drug dealing thug, Pitoniak not only sold drugs, he used street drugs daily and popped prescription pills like candy.

Jennifer Cave was a bright, caring young woman but she too destroyed a promising future with drugs. Addicted and unable to right the course of her future, Jennifer paid for her mistakes with her life. Sadly, if not for her use of meth, Jennifer never would never have met Pitonyak.

Some argue that Jennifer and Pitoniyk were good friends. Perhaps. But Jennifer also admitted, "The relationship was all about drugs." In addition, Jennifer recognized that Pitonyak was a dangerous individual whom she could not and should not trust. After being threatened with a knife, Jennifer told many that she would never spend time with Pitonyak alone again. However, her resolve was short lived. (As the time of Jennifer's death grows near, Casey employs a masterful use of suspense and with a sense of growing dread, I felt compelled to continue reading toward the tragic conclusion of this story.)

In a impulsive drug fueled rage, Pitonyak killed Jennifer. However, it is the rest of the story that is truly compelling. Enter Laura Hall. Hall was obsessed with Pitonyak and admired his bravado, his criminal history, and his carefully constructed drug dealer image. Hall loaned Pitonyak money throughtout the course of the relationship and did him favors.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Melanie on April 6, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Once again, Kathryn Casey gives me a gripping story to follow. And once again, she expects me to not read between the lines and take everything at face value.

Again and again she refers to Jennifer Cave as "Colton's friend." Yet, I feel certain we are supposed to assume there was indeed a sexual relationship between the two, at least initially, which is hinted about during Casey's discussion of motive. She mentions throughout the trial that the prosecution had no idea about this side of the story so it was never presented as motive (the idea that Pitonyak wanted Cave and she no longer wanted anything more to do with him). Does the prosecution ever find out? How did Casey come across this information so easily but a team of investigators could not?

I don't know, but something about this area of the story left me feeling let down and many unanswered questions and too much speculation. Aside from this, it was a great read.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By MJS on December 29, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's a familiar story: over-privileged white boy gone gangsta. The unfamiliar part finds him murdering and dismembering his platonic girlfriend egged on by his equally white, equally annoying gangsta moll eggs him on. True Crime Divinity Kathryn Casey shows us that Colton Pitonyak and Laura Hall, the two white kids in question, are poster children for Just Say No to Drugs.

Few true crime authors are as reliable as Kathryn Casey and only her name on the cover could convince me to read a book in which the disposal of the corpse involves the liberal use of cutlery. Where a lesser writer would focus on the heinous crime, Casey shows the descent of victim Jennifer Cave and killer Colton Pitonyak into hell courtesy of drugs. In a way the amount of hard drugs these two seemingly normal kids were doing by their freshman year is more shocking that the murder. Casey does an especially good job of showing how a "nice girl" like Jennifer Cave drifted into self-destruction.

Nice is not a word anyone will ever apply to Pitonyak or Hall. Having transformed himself into the drug king of the University of Texas via his own consumption and drug dealing, Colton looked for more ways to model himself on Scarface. Because that movie ended so well for Tony Montana and his little friend. Naturally this amounts to Colton going around telling other economically insulated white boys about his time in county jail, his gangsta ways, and his favorite rap song of the moment. Just when Colton couldn't seem to be any more of an idiot he hooks up with the true monster of the book, Laura Hall. Pitonyak was a drug addled mess living a fantasy, Laura Hall is a beast who thought that helping her boyfriend dispose of a body was romantic. It's one thing to do it, it's something else to brag about it.
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44 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Roxanne I on July 6, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have swayed away from True crime in the past few years because most of the books just are not well researched and are just kind of boring. Not so with this book,Ms.Casey draws you in from the first page and lets you feel like you know the people in this book.It is a very sad story a must read for parents with college aged children,Parents period.Then you will want to pass it down to your children who are old enough to read it so they can learn the TRUE dangers of Drugs.So sad.Lifes ruined and a beautiful soul no longer with us because of drugs.My heart goes out to the families.My soul feels hurt by what was done to Jennifer and I hope one day her family can just remember the good times.
Beware..When you buy this book be prepared not to do anything else but read.I had not heard of this case until I picked this book up and for two nights I have had very little sleep(so excuse my typos) I have stayed awake until the wee hours unable to put this book down.Probably the best written True Crime book I have read in years. Kudo's Kathryn Casey!
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