A Descent Into Hell The True Story of an Altarand a Twisted by Kathryn Casey

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By Kathryn Casey

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When Sharon asked why, her middle daughter always had an answer. “Your expectations are too high for me,” Jennifer said. “I’m not smart enough. ” Sharon felt her exasperation building. Jennifer was the brightest of her four children; how could she not realize that? When things went wrong, Jennifer called Lauren, who acted as intermediary in the building war between Jennifer and their increasingly frustrated mother. It became Lauren’s job to tell Sharon when Jennifer overdrew her bank account. “I told Mom and she started yelling at me,” Lauren says.

There were big plans in the works that fall: college. That August, Jennifer left for San Marcos, Texas, a small city on a river, halfway between Austin and San Antonio, to become one of Southwest Texas State University’s more than twenty-seven thousand students. The school dated back to 1899, and changed names nearly as often as freshmen change majors, including the year after Jennifer arrived, when it became Texas State University. In its picturesque setting of green, rolling, tree-covered hills, the university’s symbol was Old Main, a red-roofed, castlelike Victorian structure that housed the school of communication.

By then, Sharon had moved in with Jim and blended households, so they donated their excess furniture to Jen. Charlie loaded it into a trailer and hooked it up to his welding truck, then drove to San Marcos in January 2003. They packed Jennifer’s few college possessions, mainly clothing, and with Jennifer in the lead in her rundown car, they caravanned on I–35 to Austin. “Jennifer, slow down,” Charlie said on his cell phone that day, as Jennifer wove in and out of traffic. The welding truck and trailer couldn’t change lanes as easily as her little Dodge Intrepid.

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