MARTINEZ, Calif. –After being handed a life sentence for the so-called “Goth murder” of Pamela Vitale in 2006, Scott Dyleski unsuccessfully tried to get his conviction overturned in 2011. Coverage of the case largely focused on occult practices and Paganism, with the prosecutor asking prospective jurors about Wicca.
Now Dyleski is seeking a reduced sentence, and that same prosecutor is suggesting that his conversion to Wicca behind bars is nothing but a hail Mary play.
The murder of Vitale, who was the spouse of well-known attorney Daniel Horowitz, had all the elements needed to fire the imagination. She was beaten to death in her own home, and had a symbol carved in her back before she drew her final breath.
Vitale was portrayed as “about as innocent a victim that you could have in a criminal case” by prosecutor Hal Jewett, easily igniting fears about safety in the sanctity of one’s home.
Dyleski, then a teen, was already guilty of growing marijuana for sale and credit-card fraud, before he became a suspect. His goth lifestyle, complete with ample evidence of dark thoughts, made him a natural-looking suspect. The DNA evidence and testimony from several witnesses led to an easy conviction, and it appears that Vitale’s husband Horowitz was never seriously considered as a suspect.
Dyleski is now seeking a reduced sentence — from life without parole to a still substantial 25 years to life — pursuant to a California Supreme Court ruling also concerning a juvenile. He was 16 when Vitale was killed and given a life sentence. T
The current decision concerns whether or not a minor’s eighth amendment rights were violated by that sentence. Much of the cast is the same as in 2006: the same prosecutor who succeeded in getting Dyleski put behind bars is arguing before the same judge who oversaw that conviction and then declined to overturn it in 2011.
Dyleski has new attorneys, as has been the case several times since his original arrested.
Family members of the victim were not swayed by Dyleski’s claim that he did not kill Pamela Vitale. Vitale’s children and widow spoke against reducing the sentence with Horowitz urging Dyleski to accept responsibility for the crime.
In the days immediately following the killing, Horowitz was a staple on talk shows describing the gruesome scene he discovered when he returned home. Vitale was clearly dead, and he was so sure of that fact that he ultimately alerted police using the non-emergency phone number.
The fact that Horowitz was not considered aas a suspect in his wife’s murder is a central theme for the site set up in Dyleski’s defense. The site also brings up questions regarding the DNA evidence and whether police may have allowed some evidence to become tainted or destroyed, about the conduct of the prosecutor and judge, and about competence of Dyleski’s first and second attorneys.
An email sent to the site’s only listed address elicited no response by press time.
Prosecutor Jewett also was suspicious of Dyleski’s claims that he had become a better person, and dreams of one day working with troubled youth. It was Jewett who turned the subject to Wicca in the early July hearing, according to KQED reporter Kevin Jones.
Jones told The Wild Hunt that Jewett “said that the murder was ‘classic Satanic stuff’ and that Dyleski only came forward with his Wiccan beliefs after it looked like he had no chance of appealing his conviction. The prosecutor said that ‘the resurrection of his Pagan beliefs’ was reason to remove any reasonable possibility of rehab.”
It came out in court, Jones confirmed, that Dyleski converted to Wicca in 2011, the same year that his appeal of the conviction was denied. This was brought forth by Jewett, the same prosecutor who apparently didn’t want Wiccan jurors deciding the case in 2006.
None of the evidence from that trial pointed to Wicca or any Pagan religion in theories about Dyleski’s motives, although occult practices and Satanism did get referenced frequently.
The request for a reduced sentence could have been decided as early as July 13, but it appears that the judge, Barbara Zuniga, has not yet rendered a decision. A call to the Contra Costa County courthouse was not returned by press time.
We’ll continue to follow the story and update you with new developments.