AUSTIN (KXAN) - Thursday was an emotional day in court, which included LauraHall's jailhouse phone calls.
Clips from the
Hall did not take the stand in her defense. Her father, LorenHall, testifed that his daughter had bipolar disorder and asked thejury to sentence her to probation.
However, the Texas Third Court ofAppeals threwout her five-year sentence on Feb. 19, 2009. Meanwhile,Pitoynak is serving 55 years for the killing of his friend and UTpeer, then 21 - whose mother's boyfriend found her body.
Det. Mark Gilchrist took the stand to continue his testimonywhich was in progress at the time of Wednesday night’srecess. He started by talking through the timeline of eventssurrounding the murder:
Aug. 17, 2005
- 1:05 a.m. - Jennifer Cave calls her friend Michael Rodriguez
- 3:00 a.m. – Colton Pitonyak goes to neighbor Nora Sullivan’s apartment and said he was involved in shootout.
- 5:34 a.m. – Laura Hall texts Pitonyak “what do you mean”
- 6:00 a.m. - Pitonyak calls Hall. The call lasts 13 minutes.
- 6:58 a.m. - Pitonyak calls Hall. The call lasts 4 minutes.
- 7:25 a.m. - Pitonyak calls Hall. The call lasts 2 minutes.
- 12:00 p.m. - Hall withdraws money from University Federal Credit Union.
- 3:18 p.m. - Pitonyak purchases items at Breed’s Hardware on 29th Street.
- 3:26 p.m. - Receipt from Burger King on Guadalupe Street.
- 3:47 p.m. - Receipt from Valero on Oltorf Street
- 6:00 p.m. - Sharon Cave, Cave's mother, calls Pitonyak
- 7:32 p.m. - Pitonyak’s phone is tracked in Austin
- 10:00 p.m. - Pitonyak’s phone is tracked in New Braunfels
- 10:33 p.m. - Pitonyak’s phone is tracked in San Antonio
Aug. 18, 2005
- 1:22 a.m. - Pitonyak’s phone is in Brackenville
- 1:44 a.m. - Pitonyak’s phone is in Del Rio
- 1:46 a.m. - Hall gets a citation in Val Verde County
- 2:36 a.m. - Hall and Pitonyak cross border into Mexico
- 10:16 p.m. - 911 call about discovery of Cave’s Body
Hall's facebook page on Aug. 24, 2005 was reviewed. In a sectionof the page she said, "I should be more of a horrific person, it'sin the works." A picture of Pitonyak and Hall smiling during theirMexico getaway is then shown for the jury in which Gilchrist agreeswith Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel that it "looks likeshe's having fun."
Clips from Hall's "48Hours" interview were played for the jury. During theinterview, she said Pitonyak is the true suspect who killed andmutilated Cave.
She said she loved him and went to Mexico because she feared forher own life. Until she saw Cave's body in Pitonyak's bathtub, shesaid she had no idea who Cave was.
Phone calls Hall made from jail were then played for thecourtroom.
In a call to her grandmother, they discuss the “48Hours” interview. Her grandmother says it came off well, butsome things could have done better. Grandmother says “Idon’t think it helped you very much, but I don’t thinkit hurt.” Laura Hall seemed concerned about how the interviewwould be received.
Hall says “that girl’s mom sounded like a realmoron,” when talking about Sharon Cave’s part in theepisode. Cave was present in the courtroom.
In the next phone call, this one to her mother, Hall againwonders how she came across in the interview. They again discussedSharon Cave and how “she must hate it, the way the show comeout” and that Cave was “a nutcase.” She alsomakes disparaging remarks about Bill Bishop, the Travis CountyAssistant DA who prosecuted her.
Cave, sitting in the front row of the courtroom, shook her headwhen the call was completed.
In a 2nd call to her grandmother, Hall mentions suicide and saysshe wishes they would “kill me or let me go.” She makesseveral angry remarks about her mom and dad and says they are nothelping her and if she commits suicide it “might wake themup.” Hall tells her grandmother her parents told her“we don’t want to go down with you” and they donot care about her.
Loren Hall had his arm around his wife, Carol, as the twolistened to the phone call. Neither showed much visibleemotion.
After a 15 minute recess, more phone calls were heard with mostof them being placed to Mosley, in which Hall continues to makementions of suicide and the poor treatment she is receiving injail. In another call to her parents, Hall asks "when are you goingto come get me" to which her mother says "we don't have the money"when speaking of the $15,000 bond
Several calls are heard in which Hall argues with her parentsabout money and why they cannot afford to bail her out of jail. Herparents say they do not have the moneypenny, but Hall continues torespond with suicidal statements.
In a call made in 2008, Hall makes comments to some mother thatshe is going to do something violent on her way out of thecourtroom and implies she might aim that violence at prosecutorsBill Bishop, Stephanie McFarland along with Sharon Cave. She thensays she is going to invite everyone in the city to her “notguilty party” downtown.
During one phone call, Carol Hall tells Laura that Sharon Caveis just upset because “we have a daughter and she does nothave a daughter,” and says Cave is probably bitter towardsanyone who has a daughter.
In a call to an unknown male in New York, Hall says Sharon Cave"is going down" because "she (expletive) with the wrong girl."Later in the conversation she says "plenty of people will pay forthis, either in this life or the next."
The final phone call is between Hall and her parents after aFebruary 2010 court date in which Hall tells her mother about thebehavior of Judge Wilford Flowers and Stephanie McFarland in courtthat day. Hall says she got to give Stephanie a smile, butMcFarland did not smile back. They also discuss fan mail Hall hasreceived while in jail.
Court breaks for recess and will resume at 1:45.
Judge Wilford Flowers is back on the stand and became botheredwhen Laura Hall and her attorneys were late returning from thelunch break. Sheriff deputy says it is because Hall is using therestroom. The judge appeared to be growing more and more impatientduring the delay.
Finally, Hall and her attorney arrived at 1:51. Six minuteslate.
Upon resumption, the courtroom heard another call from Hall toher father in which she hints at biting her finger off to get herout of jail and into a hospital. She tells her father to get herout of jail fast because she might kill someone and she wants toplay baseball. Her father says they are coming as soon as they getthe money.
Hall's attorney Joe Sawyer finally gets passed the witness(Gilchrist) and asks him about the phone conversations and confirmssome of them are partial and redacted clips.
Sawyer then turns conversation to Cave and Pitonyak and confirmswith the detective that Cave was looking forward to starting hernew job, but was supplied alchohol and drugs by Pitonyak. Fromthere he brings to attention a poster of the movie "Scarface" thatwas in Pitonyak's room and how that movie contains a graphic scenewhere someone is dismembered in a bathtub.
After that, Sawyer took aim at Nora Sullivan, Colton's friendand neighbor who the defense says changed her story and tried toprotect Pitonyak. Sawyer says Nora could have prevented themutilation of Cave's body and Gilchrist says that is a reasonableassertion.
The cross-examination revisited the timeline and the actions ofPitonyak, Hall, and Sullivan in the hours after the murder.
Sawyer continued to hammer on the trip to Mexico. He saidPitonyak left $500 at his apartment rather than take it with him onthe getaway.
Court breaks for another short recess.
Upon resuming, Said Aziz was called to the stand by AllisonWetzel. He is a friend of Pitonyak, Hall, and Cave. Aziz says ofthe three, he knew Cave the best. He testifies that Laura Hall hadcontacted him on August 23rd, 2005 at 6:19am. At the time of thecall, Aziz already knew Pitonyak was a suspect in Cave's murder butduring the conversation, Hall said she had been "involved in this(expletiive) since like two hours after this (expletive) started."Aziz says Hall planned to tell police they were going to take avacation. After advising her to cooperate with police, Aziz wouldreceive more calls and text messages from Hall including a textmessages saying "call me, I don't know what i'm doing, they won'tlet me see him or talk to him" and another saying "I need advice, Idon't know what I am doing."
During conversation Aziz says Hall refused to turn her back onPitonyak and was hopeful others would help her protect Colton andhe could possibly walk with manslaughter instead of first degreemurder. Aziz says the conversation made him angry and when hequestioned Hall's thinking, she said he should not judge Coltonbecause Aziz did not know what happened.
When Hall told Aziz it was an accident, he grew more angryhaving known the nature of Cave's murder. He told Hall she wascrazy for sticking by Pitonyak to which she replied "That is how Iroll."
Aziz would later receive instant messages from Hall which triedto make Aziz feel guilty for cooperating with police and helpingput one of his friends away for murder. Hall called Aziz a memberof the "snitch cliq" and made many attempts to keep him fromtestifying.
One day in 2006, Aziz and Hall ran into each other on campus andbegan talking. Aziz says it was an awkward conversation and Halltold him she "wasn't going to stab him or anything."
The defense got passed the witness and immediately tried to drawa correlation between Hall's irrational behavior and herinvolvement with Pitonyak. Sawyer asked Aziz about her characterbefore and after meeting Pitonyak.
Jim Sedwick, Sharon Cave's husband and the man who discoveredJennifer Cave's body, takes the stand. He immediately beganrecounting the day he received a call from Sharon saying somethingwas wrong because she could not get a hold of Jennifer.
Sedwick had talked to Jennifer a few days earlier and says shewas "bubbly" and excited about her new job at the law firm andJennifer told him "I am going to make you proud."
He then talked about the day they knew something was wrong andhow worried he and Sharon were. While having dinner in CorpusChristi, they discussed what they should do and made phone calls toPitonyak telling him they knew he was with Jennifer that night andneeded help in finding her.
Colton responded by saying "Dude, I am eating pizza, don'tbother me, I don't know where she is."
Jim says they contacted a missing persons officer who gave thema location of Pitonyak's apartment. They went to Austin, found theapartment unit and found Jennifer's car outside. Since nobodyanswered their knocks on the door, they took the car back to thehotel where they had made reservations.
During that time they made calls to members of the Pitonyakfamily. Jim says he had a conversation with Eddie Pitonyak,Colton's father. When asked if he knew of his son's whereabouts,Eddie said "no" and asked Jim to stop bothering him.
They then took Jennifer's car back to the apartment and found acar there they learned to be Colton's.
At this point, they really began to worry since both cars werethere, but no one was answering the door.
Police officers did not want to make entry since they did nothave a warrant and a locksmith said he could not make entryeither.
Sedwick says he noticed a crack in the window and aftertalking about it with Sharon, they decided they were going in. Hesays at this time, they were very concerned and feared somethinghappened to either Colton or Jennifer inside the apartment.
After getting the window open around 10pm, he talked his wifeout of going into the dark apartment. Jim himself went in throughthe window with a flashlight while saying "don't hurt me, don'thurt me, I am here to help."
The first thing he saw to his left was a bed and then thekitchen. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in either room.
To his left was a doorway that was closed he opened it and didnot see anything. He opened a closet and did not see anything, butsays he began to smell something.
After searching and opening another door to the bathroom heflipped on the light switch and saw a body.
He began yelling "Call 911, call 911."
A neighbor outside had called 911 and handed the phone to Jimwho told the dispatcher he had found a body.
While on the stand, Sedwick's voice began to crack at this pointof the testimony. Muffled sobs were coming from the front rowwhere Sharon Cave sat.
Jim says he went back inside to see the body and says he noticedfeatures that led him to believe it was Jennifer's body. He cameback out and Sharon asked if Jennifer was inside. He replied "Ithink so."
Police arrived and took over the scene, asking Jim not to tellanyone what he had seen there until his statement could betaken.
While talking about informing his other children, Jim seemed tobe growing more and more emotional. He says they made the decisionnot to tell his parents or Sharon's parents at the time.
While making funeral plans, Sedwick never told Sharon about thecondition of the body. When Sharon asked to go see Jennifer's body,Jim told her she could not. It was not until learning a local tvstation in Corpus Christi got the autopsy report that Jim Sedwickdecided to tell his family since he wanted them to hear it from himand not television.
He told his wife, children and other family that Jennifer diedinstantly from a gunshot wound and did not suffer, but after shedied, her head was cut off.
Sedwick says his wife and one of his daughters were given asedative when told about the condition of Jennifer's body.
At this point in testimony, Sharon Cave is audibly crying in thecourtroom.
Sedwick says it will always bother his wife that she never gotto see her daughter for a last time and has asked questions aboutif Jennifer was buried with all of her body parts.
When asked about the phone call and perceived threats towardshis wife and family that were heard earlier in the day, Sedwicksays they take those threats seriously, that he went and bought ahandgun, and that his family feels much safer when Hall is behindbars.
Sharon Cave Sedwick took the stand with tears already flowingdown her face.
Right away she talked about how close a relationship she holdswith all of her children. She says when Jennifer was living inAustin, they consistently talked at least once a day.
She recounted much of Jim's testimony about her actions the dayshe realized Jennifer had not been heard from and the steps theytook to find her.
While waiting outside the apartment, she says "I knew she was inthere, I just knew it."
When Allison Wetzel asked about the additional pain themutilation caused in addition to the murder, Cave says she willalways mourn never getting to see her daughter one last time andevery time she looks at Jennifer's grave, she wonders if her handsmade it into the casket or if her fingernails were painted.
Speaking about the mutilation, she cried as she asked "Why didthey have to keep hurting her? She was already gone, you did nothave to cut her up."
She said Jim knew the body in the tub was Jennifer because ofthe freckles on her feet and when he informed her and their familyof the way Jennifer's body was mutilated, "All I heard wasscreaming."
Sharon said anyone who could do what they did to Jennifer is"evil, someone that is so evil."
Finally, she said she is not surprised by Laura Hall's threatsagainst her and she does not feel safe alone or in big crowds.
She hopes Hall is incarcerated so she "doesn't jump ten feetin the air when the ice maker drops ice in the middle of thenight."
The state rests their case.
The defense called their first witness who is an independentforensics expert who testifies further that Laura Hall's DNA wasnot found on the tools used to mutilate Cave's body. Theprosecution cross-examination pointed out the neither Pitonyak orHall's DNA was found on a hacksaw.
After brief testimony from Pitonyak's attorney Sam Bassett,transcribed testimony from Jason Mack, Pitonyak's roomate was read.In the transcriptions, Mack says Pitonyak had not slept in 9 daysand was off his medication. At one point Pitonyak grabbed a gun andthreatened to kill someone while Mack tried to calm him down.
Laura Hall's father Loren was the final witness for the defense.He was emotional as he took the stand and talked about how closeknit his family was and Laura's struggles with bi-polar disorder.And times during his testimony, Laura could be heard crying fromthe defense table. Loren, while looking at the jury, said hisdaughter and his family "absolutely" could be rehabilitated if thejurors would give Laura probation.
Alison Wetzel was very aggressive with her cross-examination, atone point asking if Laura's bi-polar disorder caused her to cut offthe head of Jennifer Cave. Loren responded that Pitonyak is the onewho mutilated Cave, but Wetzel refuted that statment by remindinghim his daughter had been found guilty of tampering with evidence.Wetzel asked Loren if he would visit his daughter in prison and ifhe thought the Cave family would visit Jennifer in prison if theyhad the opportunity to do so.
The defense rested and the jury was dismissed. Closing argumentsbegin at 9am on Friday.
The Austin Parks Department board will vote on a new design for Auditorium Shores that expands a proposed off leash dog park area by one acre.
Two school buses crashed Tuesday morning in South Austin but none of the children on board were hurt, officials said.
On Tuesday, Capital Metro will roll out it's new MetroRapid fleet and run multiple tests gearing up for its January 2014 debut.
An 8-year-old was killed while standing outside of a vehicle which lost control during the icy conditions, DPS said.
Democrats say they finally hold a statewide office again in Texas — thanks to a Republican who's switching sides.
Leander ISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. Their latest demographic report shows a shift in the type of families moving into the district.