The Orange Tree Revisits Infamous 2005 Murder
PRESS RELEASE —
Austin TX, USA—The Drag, a new audio production house of the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, will release its debut podcast, The Orange Tree, in partnership with KUT on July 14.
The Orange Tree podcast revisits the 2005 murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave, only a few blocks from the University of Texas. It is reported and hosted by Tinu Thomas and Haley Butler, two UT Austin graduates who started researching this true crime while they were still students.
“We’d heard about this crime through whispers and rumors on campus,” says Thomas, “but we never knew the full story or how much we’d connect to those involved until we took a deeper look.”
“This crime and the trials that came afterwards were heavily covered by the media,” says Butler.“We read the coverage and all of the court transcripts, and we still had questions about what happened that night.”
Jennifer Cave was the quintessential all-American girl. She loved animals, had a welcoming smile, and drank Dr. Pepper until she got sick to her stomach. Like most young people, she was still trying to figure out who she was. Right before Jennfer was killed, she was preparing to start a new job at a local law firm. She’d even laid out an outfit to wear on her first day, that next morning. But she’d never make it there.
On August 18, 2005, Jennifer’s mutilated body was found at the Orange Tree condos in the UT student neighborhood, West Campus.
Colton Pitonyak, a UT Business student and friend of Jennifer was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to 55 years in prison in 2007. Laura Hall, another UT student, was found guilty of tampering with evidence and hindering Pitonyak’s arrest by fleeing with him to Mexico. Laura was released in 2018, after serving a 10 year sentence.
The details of the case were especially shocking, and it quickly attracted attention from media outlets across the country.
“When I look at my career in Austin over almost two decades, I can’t think of any other crime that was really as brutal and as heinous as this that involved young people who truly had their lives ahead of them,” says Tony Plohetski, a 20-year veteran reporter at the Austin American-Statesman.
Butler and Thomas reported on this case for over a year and interviewed dozens of sources close to this case including Jennifer’s family, detectives, prosecutors and defense attorneys.They also interviewed sources who have never spoken publicly about the case, including the defendants, Colton and Laura.
“If you told me I’d be speaking to a man convicted of a murder that was nationally covered, who has never spoken to anyone about it before, I’d ask you what I did to end up in the cell next to him,” says Thomas.
While the case has been highly publicized for years, Butler and Thomas created The Orange Tree with one goal: to tell a more in-depth version of the story they first heard when they were students themselves. “We’re going to tell the story of what justice means for three families whose lives were turned upside down one weekday night in 2005,” says Butler.
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|The Orange Tree|
By The Drag Audio Production House