Lawyer paints dark picture of Dyleski
Opening arguments in slaying of Oakland attorney’s wife begin
By Jason Dearen, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
MARTINEZ — Three years before he fatally bludgeoned Pamela Vitale and carved a symbol into her back, Scott Dyleski became obsessed with darkness, murder and the occult following his sister’s death in a car accident, prosecutor Harold Jewett said Thursday during his opening statement in the teenager’s murder trial.
Dyleksi, 17, stared blankly at the jury, his chin trembling at times, as Jewett re-enacted the Oct. 15 evening when Vitale’s husband, Oakland criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz, discovered her lying dead in a fetal position near the entry way of their home in Lafayette’s Hunsaker Canyon. The couple had been building a mansion on the property, and were living in a double-wide trailer at the time.
Jurors sat upright as Jewett described Horowitz coming home with groceries when he found his wife’s body. “No! Pamela! No! No, please no!” Jewett screamed, describing Horowitz’ reaction.
Pacing in front of the jury, Jewett painted a picture of a disturbed, alienated teenager whose interest in dark clothing, Goth music and books on mass murder grew. Jewett said Dyleski’s computer contained records showing he researched vivisection, or the practice of cutting into people or animals and extracting organs.
“This gives us a window into the heart and mind of Scott Dyleski,” Jewett said, his voice booming. If convicted of the murder and burglary charges against him, Dyleski could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Defense attorney Ellen Leonida, a public defender, also promised jurors an in-depth look into Dyleski’s character, but noted they will see a starkly different person than the monster described by Jewett.
“People who know this kid know he’s not a killer. He’s kind, gentle, good with children and loyal to his friends,” Leonida said.
The prosecutor said he will call 40 witnesses and introduce hundreds of exhibits that, together, will show Dyleski is responsible for Vitale’s murder. Jewett told the jury investigators found Dyleski’s DNA on a blood sample taken from Vitale’s foot. Vitale’s DNA was found on a number of clothing items, including a ski mask, discovered inside a duffel bag on the property where Dyleski lived.
But Leonida, without providing details, told the jury to listen carefully to the state’s presentation of the DNA evidence. She said a glove found in the duffel bag had DNA inside it that did not match Dyleski’s or Vitale’s genetic profile.
“Scott Dyleski is not a killer and nothing you hear from the prosecution is going to prove otherwise,” she said.
While Jewett spent almost two hours describing the evidence he will present in his case, Leonida spent 15 minutes delivering her statement.
Jewett told the attentive panel Dyleski was intrigued by symbols, and he commonly drew a symbol next to his signature when signing school work or his drawings. Dyleski’s symbol resembled a stick figure, with a star drawn inside the circular head. Jewett drew the symbol on a sheet of paper for the jury, and compared its similarities with the cross-like symbol scratched into Vitale’s back.
Jewett also said Vitale’s slayer carved the symbol, and made an incision in her stomach, after the 52-year-old’s heart had stopped beating.
“After her death an incision was made in her stomach, exposing her intestines …,” Jewett said. “She was dead when that wound was inflicted.”
Vitale’s two children, Marisa and Mario, sat in the front row. Marisa buried her head into the shoulder of a woman sitting next to her. Horowitz sat behind them, and slumped in his seat as Jewett described the grisly scene.
The prosecution also will present testimony from several key witnesses, including Dyleski’s mother, Esther Fielding, girlfriend Jenna Reddy and close friend Robin Croen. Dyleski was arrested Oct. 19 after Croen told police the two had created a plan to use stolen credit cards to finance a marijuana-growing operation.
Jewett pointed out that Dyleski was in charge of obtaining the credit card information from other residents of Hunsaker Canyon, and that he listed Vitale’s and Horowitz’s property as the billing address for one of his fraudulent purchases.
Witnesses also will testify, Jewett said, that Dyleski’s behavior in the days after Vitale’s slaying made those around him suspicious.
Dyleski told numerous people he was worried police would find his DNA on Vitale, and explained he had an encounter with her while on a walk in the neighborhood the day she died. In addition, his housemates and his mother testified that on the morning of Vitale’s death, Dyleski came home around 10:30 a.m. with a gouge-like mark on his face and an injured wrist.
Vitale’s computer records show she stopped using it at 10:12 a.m., when Jewett said she was attacked by her killer.
In the defense’s opening statement, Leonida took issue with the timing. She said another resident of Dyleski’s home, Fred Curiel, will testify he remembers the teenager coming home around 9:30 a.m., and not leaving again.
Jewett also pointed out that before Dyleski’s arrest, he gave a backpack filled with evidence to his girlfriend. Reddy held the backpack for a few days before handing it over to Dyleski’s mother.
Jewett said Fielding burned a number of slips of paper on which Dyleski had written detailed financial information about Hunsaker Canyon residents, including Vitale. Fielding was arrested as an accessory to murder, but released when she agreed to testify against her son.
Inside the pack were a pair of bloody shoes whose tread matched a footprint found at the crime scene, Jewett said. In addition, a blood sample tested for DNA returned a positive match for Vitale’s genetic profile.
But Leonida said Dyleski’s friends, family members and teachers will testify the young man they know could not have committed murder.
Leonida said Dyleski cared for people and animals greatly, did not wear leather and was engaged with people and his community.
“He is a kind, gentle, conscientious kid,” Leonida said. “He may have dressed weird for Lafayette. He may have listened to more vitriolic music than other teenagers. Underneath his teenage angst and fascination with the macabre you are also going to hear that Scott Dyleski got in less trouble, volunteered more, and cared more about people than most teenagers do.”
Copyright 2006 by Jason Dearen, The Oakland Tribune and The ANG Newspaper Group