Wife's Slaying Turns Spotlight on Horowitz

The tragic slaying of his wife has put high-profile legal analyst Daniel Horowitz (search) in the spotlight usually reserved for his subjects.

Horowitz rose to public prominence providing commentary last year during the trial of Scott Peterson, convicted of murdering his pregnant wife. He hit headlines last week defending Susan Polk (search), accused of killing her therapist husband.

But the lens turned after Horowitz returned to his rural hilltop estate in Lafayette on Saturday evening and reported finding the body of his wife, Pamela Vitale (search), dead from a blow to the head.

"It is a horrible irony," said attorney Steve Mendelson, who shares offices with Horowitz and has known him 24 years.

On Tuesday, Horowitz said he was starting to accept that his wife was not coming back.

Meanwhile, friends such as Mendelson have both grieved their colleague's loss and offered their expertise and speculation on the crime, just as Horowitz has for other homicides.

"As lawyers we often deal with murder cases," said Gloria Allred, a frequent commentator on high-profile trials. "We tend to be in denial that anything like this could ever happen to us. It's just — it's heartbreaking."

Authorities said Tuesday they had no suspects in custody. They questioned several people, including Horowitz and Joseph Lynch, who sold the couple a lot adjoining their estate, about 20 miles east of San Francisco. Lynch had a deal to live for 10 more years in a camper on the four-acre lot.

Horowitz had taken out a restraining order against the 54-year-old Lynch, describing him as a mentally ill drug user who had harassed the couple. But the order was never served because Lynch had started rehabilitation and appeared to be improving, Horowitz said in an interview published Tuesday in the San Francisco Chronicle (search).

Lynch denied having anything to do with the killing, and has not been identified as a suspect.

Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said investigators consider Lynch a "point of interest" but said he has been cooperative and officers were still talking to as many people as possible.

Horowitz told the Chronicle that he discovered his wife's body next to a 65-inch TV set, which had been moved about 2 1/2 feet, indicating a struggle. "She fought like hell," he said.

"When (police) got there, all I wanted was for someone to put their arms around me," Horowitz said. "Instead, I got put in a police car. But I completely understand. They are doing their job and my job is to help them as much as possible so they can find whoever did this."

Horowitz told the Chronicle for a story in Wednesday's editions that he had no motive for killing his wife of nearly 11 years.

"She had no life insurance and only a small pension, which I believed was in her children's names," he said. "My wife really had no assets of her own."

Horowitz had been defending Susan Polk in a murder case until a mistrial was declared Monday because of publicity from Vitale's slaying. Horowitz was not in court.