MARTINEZ, Calif. – A 16-year-old neighbor accused of killing the wife of a prominent defense attorney was charged as an adult Friday with murder and ordered held in lieu $1 million bail.
Scott Dyleski did not enter a plea or speak during his first court appearance since his arrest in the Oct. 15 beating death of Pamela Vitale (search), whose body was discovered by her husband at the couple's hilltop estate.
Vitale and her husband, defense lawyer and TV legal pundit Daniel Horowitz (search), were building their dream home in the wealthy suburb of Lafayette, about 20 miles east of San Francisco. Dyleski lived down the hill from them with his mother.
The San Francisco Chronicle, quoting unidentified law enforcement sources, reported in its Friday editions that the teen was running a credit-card scam and went to Horowitz and Vitale's estate trying to track down some marijuana-growing equipment he had ordered. The teen got in a fight with Vitale, who was hit dozens of times in the head with a piece of molding, the newspaper reported.
When the teen was arrested, he had scratches consistent with a violent struggle, the Chronicle reported, citing the sources. Horowitz has said his wife appeared to have fought her attacker.
Dyleski's arraignment was set for Thursday.
If convicted of murder as an adult, he could face up to life in prison; he is too young to face the death penalty (search).
Former classmates recalled Dyleski as a nonconformist who tested out of Acalanes High School early.
"He was really gothic, always wore a long, dark jacket," said Kevin Etheridge, 16. "He'd hang out with a few kids, but he was pretty quiet, pretty much to himself."
Another student remembered him drawing a pentagram on the ground with chalk in junior high school and dancing around it with other students. "He told people the book that he was carrying and reading from was the book of Satan," Keith Kingon said.
Yearbook photos of Dyleski show a transformation from fresh-faced middle schooler to brooding teenager with black-rimmed eyes. But while some former classmates described him as a morose oddball, others who know him insisted he was basically a good kid.
His stepfather, Glenn Hirschberger, described him as a "thoughtful, intelligent young man" incapable of the brutal attack on Vitale.
"Not Scott — absolutely not," Hirschberger, who was married to the boy's mother for about four years in the 1990s, told the Chronicle. "There's absolutely no way he'd be involved in anything like this. He's not a fighter. He's not a violent kid."
Horowitz has appeared on cable news networks as a legal commentator, including during the Scott Peterson murder trial.
Vitale, 52, worked part-time for her husband's law firm. She was buried Thursday in a private ceremony.