Lawyers: New evidence casts doubt on 2007 Pitonyak murder conviction


Highlights

Colton Pitonyak’s lawyers say he couldn’t have killed Jennifer Cave in his Austin apartment 2005.

They have argued that a convicted accomplice, Laura Hall, killed Cave.

A man who is serving 55 years in prison for killing and dismembering an acquaintance in 2005 after a night of partying is requesting a new trial after obtaining new information contradicting the state’s timeline of the murder, as well as evidence showing testimony from a key witness is unreliable because she was high.

According to a petition filed Friday in Travis County state District Court, attorneys for Colton Pitonyak have secured affidavits from two men who said they were among a group of people who were hanging out in Pitonyak’s West Campus apartment around the time Jennifer Cave is believed to have been killed. Cave, a 21-year-old legal assistant who was an acquaintance of Pitonyak, was found in the bathtub with multiple gunshots and stab wounds and with her head and hands severed.

The two witnesses have not participated in Pitonyak’s case until now. According to documents, one of them, Mike Christopher, contacted Pitonyak through email saying he had been present in the apartment on the night of the slaying. Christopher, in an affidavit, said Cave was alive and Pitonyak had not left the apartment by 5 a.m. on Aug. 17.

An affidavit from another man, Bradley Brown, says everyone was “alive and well” at the time he left the apartment at 5:20 a.m.

Pitonyak’s lawyers say the new information contradicts the prosecutors’ theory that Cave died earlier, at around 3 a.m., based on a witness’s testimony that Pitonyak had arrived at her apartment around that time with blood on his forearm and talking about a gunfight at his apartment.

The time of the murder is further questioned in a new affidavit from that witness, Nora Sullivan, who said she was high on methamphetamine and that there’s a chance she provided inaccurate testimony about the time of her interaction with Pitonyak.

“There are two witnesses who saw Jennifer Cave alive two hours after the state’s theory said she was dead,” said Pitonyak’s attorney, David Shulman.

The state has 15 days to respond to the petition.

At his 2007 trial, Pitonyak testified that he probably killed Cave, but that he had no memory of attacking her after a night of drugs and alcohol.

On appeal, his attorneys have asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to grant a new trial, saying an accomplice, Laura Hall, admitted in a jailhouse confession to killing Cave. Hall was sentenced to 10 years in prison for tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension after prosecutors said she helped Pitonyak mutilate Cave’s body and escape to Mexico, where both were captured.



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