LAFAYETTE, Calif. – A friend of defense attorney and TV legal pundit Daniel Horowitz (search) said Monday police are getting closer to a break in the slaying of Horowitz's wife, and a judge declared a mistrial in a murder case against one of Horowitz's clients.
Horowitz found Pamela Vitale dead Saturday night at the entrance of the mobile home they shared on property where they were building their dream estate, authorities said. The case is being investigated as a homicide.
Attorney Ivan Golde, a longtime friend and co-counsel in a high-profile trial Horowitz is currently involved in, said police were closer to solving the case.
"There is a potential suspect, but it's not a former client," Golde said Monday on his way in to the courtroom.
Meanwhile, a judge declared a mistrial in a murder case against a woman being defended by Horowitz, citing heavy news coverage of Vitale's slaying. Horowitz was not in court as the judge postponed the trial for Susan Polk (search), who is accused of murdering her therapist husband.
Contra Costa (search) sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said Monday he hadn't learned anything about a possible suspect or a motive, and he called Golde's statement premature.
"We do have some leads that we are following up on, but I wouldn't want to characterize something as we're getting closer to an arrest," he said.
As a lawyer who defended drug dealers, killers and other serious criminals, Horowitz was worried about his safety, Golde said Sunday.
"This is a real tragedy, these are good people," Golde said earlier of Horowitz and Vitale.
An autopsy was planned for Monday.
Golde, who said he spoke to Horowitz on Saturday, would not give details about Vitale's death but said she was not shot.
After the death, a deputy was stationed Sunday at the bottom of the steep driveway leading to the home. A canopy of trees blocked views of the property, located on a sprawling hillside estate about 20 miles east of San Francisco.
Horowitz called 911 Saturday evening to report that his wife was dead, Lee said.
Another lawyer friend, Robert Massi, said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that he had seen Horowitz earlier Saturday and that Horowitz had an alibi during the day.
"He was with me for a couple of hours and met with his defense team about 11 o'clock on the Susan Polk case," Massi said. "In the afternoon he dropped paperwork off at the hotel where I was staying."
"Everything was fine. ... It's just devastating to think that nine hours later the man finds his wife like this," Massi added.
Horowitz and Vitale married about 10 years ago; both had been previously married. Vitale, 52, a former high-tech marketing executive, worked at her husband's law practice, managing databases.
Horowitz, 50, appears frequently on FOX News and other major cable news networks, and became best known for providing a defense perspective in Scott Peterson's murder trial.
Opening statements were presented just last week in the trial of Polk, accused of murder in the 2002 stabbing death of her psychologist husband in the pool house of their Orinda home. Polk's husband, Felix, was her therapist when she was a teenager, and she claims she killed him in self-defense.
Vitale sat in the front row of the courtroom last week during Horowitz's opening statement, Golde said. "She was down to earth and she was cool and believed in what Dan was doing," Golde said.
Horowitz also defended former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko in a multicount money-laundering and fraud trial. In May, a judge threw out half of the convictions against Lazarenko, who is under house arrest in the San Francisco Bay area.
Horowitz also represented Steve Williams, the fan who snagged Barry Bonds' 700th home run ball, in a lawsuit to determine who could keep the ball. A judge allowed Williams to auction it.