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Trial starts for death of prominent lawyer’s wife

Defendant Scott Dyleski listens during opening statements his trial Thursday in Martinez, Calif.Bob Larson / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A prosecutor described the gruesome injuries inflicted on the wife of prominent defense lawyer Daniel Horowitz as opening statements began Thursday in the trial of the teenager accused of killing her.

Pamela Vitale, 52, was found bloody and bludgeoned Oct. 15 in the Lafayette trailer where she and her husband were temporarily living while their new home in was being built. She died, prosecutor Harold Jewett said, of repeated blows to the head that caused bleeding in her brain.

Vitale's attacker was masked and the attack happened quickly, one blow after another. She unmasked him during the struggle and probably kicked him in the mouth, he said.

"She fought as valiantly as she could, but the attack continued," Jewett said.

After she died, a deep incision was cut into her abdomen and a curious symbol resembling an H was carved into her back, probably with a sharp knife.

Earlier, Jewett had drawn a similar symbol he said the defendant, 17-year-old Scott Dyleski, habitually used to sign his writings and dark-themed art.

Dyleski, wearing a white shirt and tie with his hair severely slicked back and ponytail gone, kept his virtually unblinking gaze on Jewett. In the front row, Vitale's daughter, 29-year-old Marisa, cried softly and dabbed at her face with a tissue.

Husband never considered a suspect
Horowitz, who was in court defending a woman charged with killing her husband the day of the murder, was never considered a suspect, although police wondered at first if the killing involved one of the many people he had defended. He sat quietly in the courtroom during opening statements Thursday.

Four days after the murder, Dyleski, then 16, was arrested.

Preliminary testimony and police documents indicate Dyleski and a friend had bought marijuana-growing equipment using credit card information and addresses stolen from their neighbors, including Horowitz and Vitale.

According to Dyleski's friend, one company denied a purchase that apparently was to be shipped to Horowitz and Vitale's address and Dyleski had said he would take care of it.

Investigators said they found a duffel bag of bloody clothing and other evidence linking Dyleski to the victim. The bag, which had Dyleski's name on it, was found in an abandoned van on the property where he lived with his mother down the road from Horowitz and Vitale's hilltop estate.

Dyleski has been jailed since his arrest. He is being tried as an adult and if convicted could face life in prison.