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[00:00:00]

You're listening to the drag. What you're about to hear contains strong language, drug and alcohol abuse and descriptions of physical violence that are gruesome in nature. Some listeners might find this distressing. If that's you, please take caution as we navigate the story about the life and death of Jennifer Cave. Previously on The Orange Tree. I can remember exactly what I told her, but I saw Jennifer's body took her down to the bathroom and showed her Jennifer's body.

[00:00:39]

So what did she say?

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She just said, what are we going to do, who killed it? How can you be certain? I can think of any other thing that happened. Why would you ever kill again?

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I don't know. There's no way I would have been on purpose.

[00:01:02]

We the jury, having found the defendant, Colton Platania, guilty of the offense of murder as alleged in the indictment, the jury sentences Colton to 55 years throughout Coltons trial.

[00:01:14]

A young brunette woman sits at the back of the courtroom intensely watching the proceedings.

[00:01:21]

It's Laura Hall and her trial is about to begin. It's August 26, 2005, Laura has I had her green Cadillac since returning from Mexico. It was impounded after she and Colton Potasnik were detained. But Austin police call her to tell her she can come pick up her keys. Laura walks into the Austin Police Department just two days before her 22nd birthday. But when she gets to the front desk, she's told she won't be able to pick up her keys just yet.

[00:02:11]

Instead, officers appear and usher her into a small white room. Inside is a metal table and three chairs she's asked to sit. There's a video camera in the top corner of the room which captures what happens next. A man enters the room. Detective Mark Gilchrist law recognizes him after Coltons arrest, Gilchrist drove to Tarpley to take Laura's statement at her parents house. After Gilchrist, a female officer, walks into the interrogation room path, Laura down and empties her pockets.

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Laura hesitantly hands over her phone. She seems worried that they'll go through it.

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Gilchrist assures her that they won't get there. The government? No, no, we can't do that more often than philosophy right now.

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All right. I'll be right back. Gilchrist walks out of the room and Laura waits on the edge of her seat for five minutes, he returns with his partner, Detective Keith Walker.

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If you're saying I might be in some kind of trouble with the God. For us at home, you're under arrest and detention. I want you to understand what's going on. If you want to talk to your attorney, I'll bring your phone in. All right.

[00:03:37]

From what you're hearing now is audio from the videotaped interrogation of Laura Hall after her arrest that day at the Austin Police Department. Since you can only hear so much will describe what happens next.

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At the start of the interrogation, you can see it on her face. Laura doesn't realize just how much trouble she's in. She's wearing a black Bansi, dark wash jeans and flip flops or casual outfit for picking up groceries, walking your dog or grabbing your keys from a police station. Her long, dark hair is parted slightly off center. She's sitting with her elbows on the table, looking straight down at her lap. Walker reads Laura her Miranda rights, and Gilchrist asks if she wants counsel.

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Laura covers her face with her hands, she looks up, runs her fingers through her hair in just 45 seconds, she waves her rights overseas and the rest of the world.

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Are you going to do the. Laura wanted to be a lawyer. She had even worked at a legal firm in Austin shortly before this. So it's likely that Laura knew how important it was to call your lawyer as soon as you get in any legal trouble.

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We wonder why she wouldn't call a lawyer right away like Colton did. What's going to happen?

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You're going to go to jail. You got to tell the truth.

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You're going to go straight to jail. And you're going to be in jail for a long time on the Internet because of.

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What do you want to know? I'm Hailey Butler, and I'm Tanya Thomas. This is the fifth episode of The Orange Tree.

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Detective Gil Cross walks out of the room for a meeting, Detective Walker takes his chair and clasps his hands together.

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OK, Laura's hands do most of the talking as she describes the morning of Jennifer Cave's death. When she's upset, she flips her hands outward, when she's thinking she runs her fingers through her hair. Laura tells the detective she was sleeping over at her friend Ryan Martindale's place when Colton called her that morning after his phone call for.

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How is he doing? He asked her to come over. She says she made Ryan take her to her apartment so she could grab her car and she was eager to get to Colton's place because, well, she missed him.

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I had wanted to see him. I saw the text messages and then he had dinner. And that was. Laura tells detectives she and Colton were having relationship problems and she wanted to fix things. Back at Rintoul's, before you get into my car, I call and I was like, what are you doing? I was like, I don't think it's a good idea for you to come over to my house today. And I was like, what are you talking about?

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I just woke somebody up. Lee. I mean, understand, like, I didn't know at that point that. There was a serious situation going on, so, I mean, it may sound weird now that I feel weird saying, you know, but I know when she finally got to Colton's place and he let her in, she spotted a pinkish purple purse on the ground.

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I was like, what is this? Is there some girl here with what is going on with this? And he wouldn't let me touch it. He went on to say he was just like no or whatever, and told me to shut up and crazy about these. She tells Detective Walker that they thought about the way Colton treats her. She says Colton didn't want to deal with the fight, so he tried to throw her out of the apartment. Not the first time, but Laura didn't budge.

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She wanted to stay and fix things no matter what. I don't like being thrown out of some department personal feelings. So he certainly didn't issue any verbal, but physically at first, he tried to reach out and shake my hand and help me up and I wasn't breathing and he had a weapon in.

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Laura tells the detective that Colton had a wood board, a machete and a gun in the apartment. She says Colton wasn't holding any of the weapons at the time, but she's seen him accidently fire a gun before.

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I heard the rounds had actually gone, I saw around off with the enough. Oh, no.

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Then Laura tells the detective she leaves his apartment. She doesn't want to fight with Colton anymore, especially not with the weapons laying around his place.

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You got to leave and you think you realize that you're not sure about who are you?

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I felt like I was within hours of the detective isn't so convinced you are. I'm just saying, is there something that you remember or something that you wish to change that you told me recollection or you're like, oh yeah, I just remember. That's OK if you need to tell me, OK.

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Walker asks Laura if she saw anything out of the ordinary at Colton's place that day.

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The blood on the floor, I noticed spot on the floor I did not know was in those minutes.

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Laura tells Walker that it wasn't unusual to see spills around Colton's place and that if she did see something that day, it didn't stick out as odd to her.

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So you know why I noticed it. So it wasn't unusual.

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It wasn't unusual to see a detective.

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Gilchrist returns from his meeting and Laura breathes a sigh of relief, got out of jail for the rest of my life.

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And Margaret Gilchrist, the older of the two officers, speaks in a low baritone. He looks like the middle aged detective you'd see in movies inexplicably holding a Styrofoam cup at all times. He has a graying mustache and is wearing practically the same outfit in every photo we could find of him. Blue, gray, buttoned up and a tie, sensible khaki pants. He speaks slowly and intentionally.

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He encourages Laura to tell him more, to tell him what she remembers as best as she can to stay on track as to what happened and get the facts down on her.

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He sounds fatherly at times, asking Laura if she needs to use the restroom if she's comfortable. He even gets her some food from Wendy's. He's playing the good cop right now.

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I just can't stress enough how important it is for you to go ahead. It is the true story out, OK? And then after that, we can talk about and talk about the mental anguish, how afraid you are of him and all that talk about this, no matter what am I going to do? You will be going to jail for this. No matter what. No matter what.

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I can't undo what Laura fidgets for a second. She runs her fingers through her hair and takes a long sip of the Coca-Cola Gilchrist got for her. OK, Anthony. I knew very little about it in the. Laura just admitted to seeing Jennifer's body that morning to Gilchrist. Something she denied up until now. What I should have done is call the police as soon as the whoever is going to find us. But the thing is, is that I would have gone for my phone calls and had a night out.

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She tells Detective Gilchrist a new story this time when she arrived at Colton's house that morning, they didn't fight about Colton calling her a ho. Across from the interrogation table, Laura reaches her hand up to look like she's holding a knife.

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He had a silver knife about. They helped me in the back room to my good. And that's when she says she saw Jennifer Cave's body for the first time open the shower curtain. But even after. Sitting on top of it. So he tells me to go home and I. Laura tells Gilchrist she left the apartment right after that. She also explains that she didn't call the police when she left because she says Colton knew dangerous people and that he had weapons on him at that point.

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You know what? You're right. I probably should call the cops. That would have been a great opportunity for you to do that.

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However, to go in one of bathroom. Get away from the tub to. Don't let them think you're going to call the police. Her phone rings a few hours later. So call me back and tell me again, Laura tells detectives after eating pizza with Colten at Mr. Gatti's, they head back to his place together. And once again, I soon as going back there. But like I said, I mean, I was already deeply involved at the point that I had seen the body.

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My life was as it was, and then I wasn't going to play games with that. Laura says at the time she felt threatened, but also she doesn't believe Colton is capable of killing someone, she says she feels horrible, admitting to details that make him look guilty.

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I mean, at that point, I mean, I didn't know if he was guilty or innocent, you know what I mean? And did you think maybe on some level this is kind of cool? Oh, no.

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What are you going? I didn't tell you. I thought the situation was cool and cool with, you know, with the man you'll cross.

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Ask Laura earlier whether she had a Bonnie and Clyde complex.

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Not really. I mean, like, were you just trying to have an adventure? I don't know what I was trying to do. There was so many different things going on in my mind. Gilchrist leans in towards Laura with one elbow on the table in the corner. Detective Walker keeps his head down steadily, taking notes. They've been there for about two hours now, and Gilchrist is still pushing, asking Laura again to start from the top. And again, if Colton mentioned anything about what happened between him and Jennifer the night they went to 60, we got a lot of different things concerning that situation.

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OK, tell me that when you said what the hell happened, what did he tell you?

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He said that he called and wanted to come over and give you a more look.

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He told me that he came in with a gun and started firing rounds at Gilchrist, asks her if she believed that story and if she saw any other signs to corroborate what Colton told her happened with Jennifer Connelly.

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The injuries on him at all is. Yes, that's great. Laura tells detectives she left Colton's place again that evening, but this time Kolten went with her. They drove to Laura's house to get her luggage. She said this entire time, Coltons never admitted to shooting Jennifer.

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Do you really think that with everything that you know up to this point? That Kelton didn't do that and then forced to consider the possibility that maybe it's more of a possibility, is that something you're going to have to deal with? Didn't feel I mean, really, Laura's getting really emotional by this point.

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She's shaking her head and repeating the same question about Coltons, in a sense, over and over.

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Certainly the. Then we don't just go around on murder charges on people for no reason. You know, one of the reasons you need to wake up for is. Detective Gilchrist keeps pressing for more. He knows Laura's obsessed with Colton, he's seen the photo they took together in Mexico. He knows Laura dropped out of her classes at Yuchi while on the run with Colton. And he knows Laura was suspicious of Jennifer and Colton's relationship. Laura continues to sit with her arms crossed for you there when you feel Laura shakes her head no to the question about her being there when Jennifer died, Gilchrist reminds her that, although tedious, he has to keep asking her these questions to make sure he can't lean in any further.

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So Gilchrist inches his chair closer to Laura.

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Did you consciously, though, in any way, shape or form commit the murder? No. No, I didn't try and help him cover it up at all, other than what you already know about how I was involved in the Mexico Snorri's. I asked you, did you feel you were you present when the group was killed? Sure. If you came down to it, would you be willing to take a polygraph exam?

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Just on the question of the education of a detective that worked, this case told us that the question of a polygraph is often brought up to suspects and witnesses during interrogations to try and get them to open up.

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But it's not always used. Laura doesn't end up doing a polygraph. Laura's taken to jail right after her interrogation that day.

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Almost two years later, Laura will sit at a council table in the Travis County courthouse with her lawyer, James Sawyer. Her hair will be pinned back. She'll be sharply dressed in a collared shirt and suit papers spread out in front of her in college. It was her dream to be in the spot, pursuing a law degree, but instead she'll be the defendant in this case. And DNA analyst Kathy Carradine will testify to the jury that Hall's DNA cannot be excluded from the gun or the hacksaw.

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If you're listening to this podcast, you're probably interested in true crime, but do you know what it takes to report a true crime story thoroughly and with sensitivity? I'm seriously and in my podcast request pending, I talk to Haley and know about how they created the podcast you're listening to right now, five requests pending a production from the DRAC, wherever you get your podcasts. James Soyer or Jim Sawyer was easy to find, a quick Google search brought his website to the top of our results, SOYER, the lawyer, Dotcom.

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When we first contacted you about the case, what was the first thing that went through your head? What did you remember first about this case?

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This is one of those cases you never really forget. You might forget some of the details you might forget or to have witnesses.

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But the the facts in this case are so horrific and the public reaction was so immediate and so negative that you can't forget it.

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He was our first interview when we started reporting on this case, when we met him for the first time. So I was dressed to the nines from his ostrich skin boots to as well quaffed hair. He turned heads when he walked into the studio, and it's no surprise that he looked like he was ready for his close up. So he loves the camera. His website is filled with links to TV specials. He's done for high profile cases, and he's had many opportunities to be covered by the media.

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Before representing Laura Sawyer represented a defendant convicted of another well-known Austin crime, the yogurt shop murders in the 90s. The case was widely covered by the media, and so was Sawyer and his ostrich skin boots. His client, Robert Springstein, was convicted on four counts of capital murder, but Sawyer helped him get his conviction overturned.

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Yeah, one of my weaknesses is that the more challenging the case than the more likely I am to take this case was no different.

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In fact, this time he wasn't the only one looking to be on camera. Laura was, too.

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There are times that you have clients who simply refused to listen. Did I ever think that she was incompetent? No, it wasn't a lack of intellect. It was something else.

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Laura pulled a lot of stunts throughout her trial, many of which made headlines. She walked into court one day holding the book Are Men Necessary by Maureen Dowd. Another time, she showed up with her hair dyed red.

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One of the newspaper reporters asked me, he said she comes down the hall like she's starring in a movie. What's this about? And I said, I don't know. And I didn't. But she made everything newsworthy. She certainly kept people's eyes on us.

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Sawyer has a steel trap memory, especially when it comes to reciting fantastical personal anecdotes, and he has a lot of these about his time spent representing Laura. We asked him to start from the top.

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So we want to know about your reaction to the case before you got involved. What did you think when you first heard about the murder of Jennifer Cave?

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I knew whatever everyone else knew, I knew that she had been accused. I knew that there had been an alleged dismemberment of the body her husband cut off. Her hands have been cut off there in bags. But I think the thing that shocked the jury the most is that one of them had to have taken her severed head and then used the gun that killed her and fired a bullet through her neck, her severed neck, so that the bullet lodged at the base of her skull.

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Sawyer walks us through Laura's trial.

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It's scheduled to be eight months after Coltons and she's facing up to 10 years for hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence.

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Hindering apprehension means helping Colton flee to Mexico and tampering with evidence, meaning being at the crime scene and possibly taking part of the mutilation of Jennifer's body.

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Assistant D.A. Bill Bishop and Stephanie McFarland, the same pair who prosecuted Colton, now have the chance to put Laura behind bars. Judge Flowers is presiding again, as he had for Coltons trial. But this time he says no cameras.

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My duty is to tell my client what I think about the facts, tell her what I think about the alternatives, but let her choose. Yes, I'm going to tell my client honestly what I think. But then she makes the choice and I carry it out as best I can. Laura wanted a trial and I told her, ma'am, I will do my absolute best. So can you tell us a little bit about your strategy approaching this? My strategy was to use the physical evidence to show them, A, that she is as much a victim to Colton Potočnik as Jennifer Cave was, that he only had to call and she's there that like Jennifer, she can't say no to prove this to a jury.

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Sawyer calls Jason back to the stand. Jason Mack, Colton's friend, who you heard from just a few episodes ago, knows Laura well and has spend time with her on many occasions, mostly at Colton's place.

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One time she showed up to the orange tree looking to get some money she loaned Colton. Here's what Jason says happened that day while on the stand at Laura's trial. Colton had been drinking a lot. Pretty much everyone there had been on some kind of drug or another. He was really agitated. He was out of his prescription for Xanax, for anxiety. So he was like spazzing out. He went to his drawer, the desk on the left hand of the apartment by his bed and pulled out the gun.

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He was like, this bitch is getting on my fucking nerves. I'm going to shoot her. I was like, Dude, chill out, man. You say you're going to shoot someone over some. I mean, you owe her money and she's your friend. You're going to shoot her. You're fucking crazy, dude. Jason goes on to say that he had to talk Colton down from shooting Laura, he was like, should I shoot her? And I was like, No, dude, don't shoot her for real.

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It's not cool, dude. Put the gun away. Sawyer asked Jason where Laura was when he was inside trying to calm Colton down, she was outside on the steps crying because he had thrown her out, like physically thrown her out onto the patio where the pool area is at. I think she was the product of her life experience. I think she slavishly devoted herself to someone who was everything. She wasn't brilliant, rich, handsome. We know the feeling of being young and in love with someone and wanting to be loved back, the worst of all obsessions lead us to an embarrassing double taxed or accidentally clicking like on their photo from 2010.

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But even Luras lawyer says that her feelings for Kolten went beyond this. She was clearly no one doubted it, obsessed with him. I mean, love is the improper word. Obsession, I think is the right word. Hi, I'm Tanya, co-host of The Orange Tree. As a journalism student, it was a rare opportunity to be able to create a story like the one you're listening to at the Drag. That's our goal. We want to give students the time, space and tools to create stories like The Orange Tree.

[00:27:14]

To hear more podcasts like this one, visit the drag audio dotcom. And if you like what you see and hear, click donate. The second part of SOYER strategy is to show the jury who he believes Colton really is, to prove to them that Colton wasn't just a leather jacket wearing cigarette smoking cool kid you'd see in a movie.

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Rather, Soyer argues that Colton was a real life bad guy. He sold drugs, manipulated women and endangered the lives of those close to him.

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The facts themselves tell you this guy is such bad news, it's only a question of time until he injures someone, until he kills someone.

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Sawyer uses examples of Coltons interests to solidify his bad boy image to the jury.

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There was a man who had an episode of The Sopranos sitting on a coffee table that featured the dismemberment of a body in a bathtub.

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His favorite films featured Dismemberment. You know, Scarface. I think Donnie Brasco. And so those were the facts that I wanted to seize on, that this was a man who was predisposed to the most evil conduct you could possibly conceive of, that he loved it. He was obsessed with it. If you remember and if I remember correctly, he had a Scarface poster in the kitchen. I mean, everywhere you looked, he had the toy guns, the search for yet an additional weapon online.

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Those are the things I wanted to use to persuade a jury that he used everyone around him and that he was dangerous.

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Sawyer also tries to use physical evidence in Laura's favor to try to prove that Colton is the only one that could have mutilated Jennifer's body.

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When I had Dr. Peacocke on the stand, I was asking her, how hard is it, ma'am, to use a knife to remove a hand? And she said it would take considerable strength and determination.

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Now, she can't offer the opinion that it was Colton, but she was trying to say, yes, this would be extremely difficult.

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You know, you look at the facts. If he had simply shot that girl and then they left the body, I think then if you're in Laura's position, it's still defensible. But she comes over and no matter how you interpret the facts, the one irreducible fact is a jury is going to know that when she leaves with Colton, Jennifer's body has been dismembered.

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During trial, the same prosecutors who went to great lengths to try to prove Kolten mutilated Jennifer's body now shift their attention and the blame to Laura Bishop and McFarlan argue that she was smitten and obsessed with Colton and that she would have done anything for him, including lending him money standing outside his apartment after he kicked her out, riding the hardware shopping list and using the hacksaw.

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Bishop in McFarland brings several people to the stand that corroborate her obsession with Colton Lauras jail cellmate Henriette Lanegan and takes the stand.

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She tells the jury that while Laura was awaiting her trial in their shared cell, they talked about testifies that Laura confessed to her, that she helped Colton cut up Jennifer's body.

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Laying it back, says Laura also told her she had given Colton the shopping list for the hardware store run.

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She said they planned to dismember Jennifer's body in order to get rid of anything that could have identified her and that Laura was frustrated with Colton because he wasn't following through with the plan and that she spoke ill of Jennifer, calling her a, quote, fucking waitress.

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Ho! Laying it back says Laura said she would have bragging rights about mutilating a body to her grand kids. This gave Leonard Bach the impression that Laura was in charge of the operation. Sawyer makes the point to ask Henriette Lingonberry about her criminal history, to try to show the jury that she was an unreliable witness in the end, did it matter?

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No. Why? Because of Laura. I told her once, it's as if you want to be convicted. If this persists, then disaster lies before us. The prosecutors also called taxi driver Doug Connolly to the stand. Connolly says that in August 2006, he got a call to pick up a girl named Ashley from West Campus. A side note, Laura's going by her middle name at this time, which is Ashley. She needed a ride to her job at Tex Mex restaurant, baby Acapulco's famous for its purple margarita in a conversation during the ride.

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Connolly says the girl spoke to him about her legal troubles.

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The young woman admitted to Connolly that she's facing charges for harboring a fugitive who she says was her boyfriend when he asked what crime her boyfriend was in trouble for. She said it was for murder and the victim was, quote, some bitch.

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She went on to say that the girl caused her a lot of difficulty and that her name was Jennifer Cave.

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Along with Connolly's testimony, prosecutors also present the jury with a video of Laura crossing the border into Mexico, coltan in her passenger seat, as well as that infamous photo of Laura and Colton smiling on the floor of a hotel manager, Pedro Fernandez's home.

[00:32:36]

There's a videotape of them crossing into Mexico in her Cadillac. And then they have these six days when they're on the run. And she later tells a friend, and I'm quoting, These were the best six days of my life. DNA becomes a point of contention in the trial, there were four weapons found at the scene, a gun, a buck knife, a machete and a hacksaw.

[00:33:07]

All four were tested.

[00:33:10]

Tests showed that both Colton and Laura were likely contributors to DNA that was found on the gun, its magazine in the hacksaw left on Jennifer's body.

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Only Jennifer's DNA was found on the buck knife. But the state's DNA expert says with the amount of Jennifer's blood on the knife, anybody else who touched it might not be able to be identified.

[00:33:34]

Jennifer's DNA was also on the machete Coltons.

[00:33:37]

DNA was found to be a likely minor contributor. Laura's DNA was excluded from it. DNA results are a little confusing. We'll try to walk you through it. When officials find your DNA on something, your DNA profile is matched against an FBI database that's made up of convicted offenders, certain arrestees and forensic casework, DNA profiles, additionally known suspect's DNA may also be genotypes. And compare your DNA profile is assigned an estimated frequency at which the DNA profile would be expected to occur in a particular population group.

[00:34:15]

For example, when the DNA expert in Coltons trial talked about the grip of the pistol used in the shooting, he said that Colting could not be excluded as a contributor to the mixture and that there was a probability of only one in one hundred and twenty six thousand five hundred that a random Caucasian person could have contributed to the mixture. So there's very strong support that Coltons DNA contributed to the mixture on the pistol grip. However, that is not 100 percent definitive.

[00:34:45]

Dr. Rachel Houston is an assistant professor at Sam Houston State University. She specializes in forensic biology. Dr Houston helped us interpret the DNA findings in the trial.

[00:34:57]

Dr Houston wrote that depending on the method used to calculate these numbers, they may not be as accurate as they could be, and that it's hard to say definitively without seeing the DNA profile itself. For Laura, the state's DNA expert says that it's 1112 times more likely that Laura contributed to the mixture than if an unknown, unrelated individual contributed DNA to the gun grip.

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The prosecutors say those odds show it was likely her.

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But Sawyer argues that it shows that it easily could have been somebody else's DNA. Laura doesn't take the stand for her trial after all the witnesses were heard and closing arguments were made. Laura faces the jury verdict.

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Ultimately, Laura's found guilty of both charges hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence.

[00:35:48]

If someone asked me what led Laura Hall to being convicted, her words, her words, her words, so do I blame the jury in this at all?

[00:35:59]

Do I think do I fault them in any way? Absolutely not. I think they did what they had to do. Was I pleased with the punishment verdict in the first trial? Yes.

[00:36:08]

Laura sentenced to prison for five years while Laura sits in prison. Sawyer is still working on her case. He discovers that the prosecution made a mistake during Laura's trial. It turns out the taxi driver, Doug Connolly, couldn't identify Laura in a lineup. And Sawyer wasn't made aware of this.

[00:36:28]

The many things the state did to conceal evidence to cheat a set of evidence when it was nonsensical. To this day, I don't understand why they did it.

[00:36:38]

Based on the new evidence, Laura gets a resentencing hearing. Allison Wetzel replaces Bill Bishop as lead prosecutor when it came back for retrial.

[00:36:47]

I faced one of the most capable, brilliant lawyers I've ever squared off against, not only on that occasion, but many occasions. Her name is Allison Whetsel.

[00:36:57]

Wetzel was a chief prosecutor in the county's child abuse division and is especially drawn to this case.

[00:37:04]

I handled, I think, about a dozen child homicides in my career.

[00:37:08]

So their cases with serious injuries, terrible damage to victims, things that, you know, wrecked people's lives.

[00:37:18]

And I felt like it was my job to care about it and to make the jury understand why they should care.

[00:37:25]

If you sent Ali to a class on how to cheat, she would fail. She has integrity, but most of all, she has an intellect between the first trial and the resentencing.

[00:37:36]

Sawyer knew to be wary of what Laura might do or say when I found out that Allison Wetzel was going to have the retrial. I knew that I was in trouble. That woman leaves nothing undone, nothing.

[00:37:50]

So Soyer wasn't surprised when Whetsel called him.

[00:37:53]

She called me early one morning at home and said, I found something. And I said, I bet I know what you found. I bet you found a jail called her, too, didn't you? She said, yes, Jim. But again, no surprise, because by then I knew my client and by then I knew her propensity for outrageous statements.

[00:38:16]

What so-called Sawyer to let them know that she'd gone through Laura's jail phone calls and that she would be using some of that audio in court to help make the case against Laura.

[00:38:26]

There's a warning at the beginning of every call so that the person on the other end, as well as the inmate, can tell that this call's being recorded and may be monitored.

[00:38:36]

And it is just often very surprising what jail inmates will say on the phone. And I think they maybe assume that there's too many of them and that there's no way they can listen every call.

[00:38:50]

Hello, this is a collect call from Ashley, an inmate at Travis County Correctional Complex, five months into her sentence.

[00:39:00]

Laura calls her grandma from prison. She wants to know if she saw the 48 hour segment that aired the night before. One that she stars in. I was 12.

[00:39:09]

I wanted to see if you saw my show last night. I did like I did start to send you an e-mail and say something about it over the e-mail when you came home for good. You know, you look good and you came on OK. The 48 Hours episode is called Into Deep, the title, a reference to something Laura says during her interrogation and a play on words about her love for swimming. Laura stresses to reporters that she had nothing to do with any part of the crime and that the only thing she's truly guilty of is loving the wrong man.

[00:39:46]

Laura and host Maureen Maher sit in a dimly lit room for a one on one interview. The camera is focused on Laura's face.

[00:39:54]

It never occurred to you to call the cops or your folks or your friends or anyone, but it didn't seem like a good move.

[00:40:01]

I mean, look, I didn't know it was going to happen if I call the police, OK? There was nothing I could have done to save her life at that point. In her call to her grandma, Laura says she watched the documentary er from jail and that she felt it wasn't being as well-received as she had hoped.

[00:40:18]

This lady, this lady here said she said she hated it. So my my she would have told them not to air it. And so I come off as phony and arrogant. And I didn't I didn't see that at all. I didn't even see her. When the resentencing begins, Whetsel not only has all of the witness testimonies from the first trial to use against Laura, but this time she also has audio of law herself for the jury to hear.

[00:40:48]

So this jail calls were really a really significant piece of evidence because they gave us such a view into her character and her personality.

[00:40:59]

She talked about her case. She talked about how angry she was. She was so angry at, well, really everyone. But, you know, she was very angry at her parents that they wouldn't post your bond.

[00:41:11]

The phone call you'll hear is Laura talking to her mom from prison. Hi, how are you doing? I'm ready to go home. Yeah, well, no reason to go on about that because, you know, that's not going to happen any time soon. Warren told me that it was going to happen. So why are you trying to tell me that? It's not it doesn't make sense. What does it mean for us to spend every penny we have to get you out of jail when?

[00:41:38]

Well, we're not going to focus on my good fortune, even though she had been warned that they were being recorded.

[00:41:45]

It definitely seemed like she was unguarded.

[00:41:50]

Well, that can happen here. Well, it's probably going to happen that way or I'll kill you. Well, I hope you don't.

[00:41:58]

She blamed other people for her being in jail. I was just constantly she was constantly angry about that.

[00:42:05]

She was still in jail post the bond. They know I'm probably getting ready to hang myself with my underwear because they know me and they've seen me in action and they know like I'm really at that point. Yeah. They don't even get through shit. I think they'd be relieved if I were dead. Then they wouldn't have to pay for me anymore. Yeah. I hate for you to feel that way. Does it seem that way, though? I mean, when I look at it from your point of view, yeah.

[00:42:32]

My point of view tends to be negative and ugly and. Right.

[00:42:36]

I think the statements that she made that came across worse in the courtroom were the things that she said about Sharon.

[00:42:44]

So that sounds like a real moron that who did that like. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That also slut with the blonde hair from the news. And I hate that woman. She goes to help. Frankly, I will take her there myself. I get the opportunity. Yeah. And I don't care who I hope they put on the seven o'clock news that I said that because I mean it. It's true. I care more than anything alive and asking me to understand her would be like asking her to understand me.

[00:43:17]

Right. So she could do that. But if she can't then I won't. Yeah. Yeah, she needs to. Yes, she needs you. All right. I'll see to it that she does. I can truthfully say that with Laura Hall, you could never see it coming. The biggest single difference in second trial and punishment is that Alison took the hundreds of calls that she had made and when I saw them down and there's one that made it go from five to 10, in my opinion.

[00:43:48]

How on earth could a young girl get on the phone with her mother and her father? And I'm going to repeat what was played for the jury. Mother, who do you blame for this? Laura, that bitch. And when I get out this time, that bitch is going down. And then the father asks, what about the judge?

[00:44:11]

We want to play a conversation about some things that she said about Judge Flower specifically. And the defense objected that it was too prejudicial. So we're up in front of the bench and Judge Flowers was listening to their objection. And they told him that the statement was too prejudicial, but they didn't tell him what the statement was. So Judge Flores hadn't heard the evidence. And so he looked at me and said, what is it?

[00:44:37]

And what it was, was that she had referred to Judge Flowers as a motherfucker.

[00:44:45]

I was watching that jury and I thought, it's all over.

[00:44:50]

Laura's sentence is doubled to ten years.

[00:44:53]

All these years later, I have absolute strangers stopped me in vain against me asking, how could you do it?

[00:45:01]

I think one of the things that people forget is that just imagine if we created a class of crimes in this country that meant you couldn't be defended, then what the hell would we be doing? You know, I explained to a group once when I was in a seminar that if Hitler had survived World War Two, we wouldn't have executed him because we would have created a martyr and fascism might have gone on unchecked. Instead, we would have tried him.

[00:45:25]

We would have let the world know what he did, as we did with the war trials at Nuremberg.

[00:45:31]

So let me ask you, do you think that the tribunal would have appointed the most capable and the most articulate lawyers to represent Hitler are the worst? And the answer is the best so that there could never be a question. He got anything but excellence.

[00:45:46]

So you would take the case. Would you change anything about the way you approached it?

[00:45:50]

If I could change anything, obviously it would be my client's behavior and her words, but. Maybe I could find a new way to re-emphasize Colton Protonix behavior, his aberration, the timeline for that evening in the fact that really, no matter what her words, that Laura was a victim.

[00:46:16]

And all of that showing off, in her words, were just a reflection of her obsession with him. But yeah, I would do it again.

[00:46:35]

Laura has served her time in prison and is out now.

[00:46:38]

However, her name is brought up again and again an appeals that Colton Botanicas defense team has been filing since his 2007 conviction all the way up to today. You'll hear about those in the next episode. Next on the orange tree, we were just trusting them. We thought we had continued good attorneys hand, which was a big mistake four years after Coltons convicted of murder and given a 55 year sentence.

[00:47:12]

His dad, Eddie Potasnik, hasn't given up. He's hired new lawyers to try to get Colton out of prison. In April of 2013 at hypertonic hires, private investigator Eddie Franklin, and he's asked to reinterview witnesses from the case, private investigator Frank knows that Laura has a history of sharing sensitive information with those around her. So he pays a visit to the RV park that her parents own to try and collect affidavits from neighbors that Laura might have talked to about the case.

[00:47:42]

One neighbor he interviewed says that in the summer of 2009, Laura told him, quote. You have Laura after she gets arrested, she's threatening the D.A. talking about Jennifer, about her family, you know, just everybody involved just keeps on, keeps on, keeps on. You know, like I said, it's not going to be easy. The mutilation was just like it was like anger becomes something very emotional emotionally. Mr.. The Orange Tree is a production of the drag and audio production house that's a part of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism and the Moody College of Communication.

[00:48:33]

It's reported, produced and hosted by me, Haley Butler and me to New Thomas. Our executive producer is Robert Quickly. The studio sound engineer was David Alvarez. This podcast was created in partnership with Katie Austins, NPR station special thank you to Cottee's, Debbie Whyatt, Matt Largey and Todd Callahan for their guidance, studio space and technical support. The podcast was fact checked by Lisa Pavic at the Massu Helps with story structure and editing news. Audio tape and trial footage in several episodes were generously provided by KXAN, Austins, NBC Station and CAVU Austins ABC station.

[00:49:10]

Christian MacDonald is the dregs. Technical director Matty Thomasin designed the podcast artwork Sabrina Labov letter marketing and PR efforts working with the Moody College and Kutty special thanks to Kathleen McElroy, Alexis Travis, Kelsey Whipple, Claire Boyle and David Janah for their guidance and support. The drag is made possible thanks to the Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment and by individual donations. Since the drug is part of the Moody College beauty, we've had the help of several students who serve as associate producers for this podcast.

[00:49:44]

They include Sidney Jones, Simon Pouliot, Candice Baker Tuesday Dear in Reagan, Ritterbusch Allaster Tulba, Riley Miller, Meredith Palmer, Kadija, Bill de Miah, follow us and Mikhaila Mondragón for the full list of students and others who helped with this podcast. And for more details on the orange tree, check out our website, The Drag Out of Your Dotcom.

[00:50:07]

While you're there, click on the donate button to support this podcast and the work of student journalists. The Drag is a non-profit organization, so we really appreciate your help. Also, please consider supporting Katie or your local NPR station. Hi, my name is Testbeds, and I'm Alyssa Hernandez, we're the host of Crooked Power, a podcast about how the free press stood firm against the crooked power.

[00:50:36]

This story is incredibly personal to society because it is actually about his family and how they were prosecuted by a former president of Ecuador.

[00:50:45]

This podcast series will make its debut in 2021 as part of the drug and audio production house at the University of Texas at Austin.