Guests: Steve Mendelson, Stephen Clark, Bruce Gerstman, Larry Kobilinsky, Jayne Weintraub, Jim Nolan>
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, our friend Daniel Horowitz finds his wife dead. He can hardly get out words, but through the tears he shared what he could with me.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Horowitz is convinced his wife Pamela Vitale—quote—“fought like hell against her killer.” He said the crime scene was cleaned up and that he believes he knows when she was killed. More details and my conversation with Daniel and we‘ll talk to several of his close friends.
Plus, the only suspect in the Taylor Behl murder case reportedly confesses to police, saying he killed the college freshman during sex. Shocker. He has an explanation.
And could the Special Counsel investigating that CIA leak now have Vice President Dick Cheney in his sights?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, breaking news to report in a story that hits close to home. A good friend of this program now finds himself helping police investigate his own wife‘s murder. Regular viewers will recognize high-profile defense attorney, Daniel Horowitz, a man who has dedicated decades of his life serving the less fortunate.
Saturday evening he returned home to find his wife, 52-year-old Pamela Vitale, dead inside their home. Police calling it a homicide and a violent one. Daniel was in the middle of a high-profile case defending Susan Polk, accused of murdering her husband. A mistrial was declared in that case just hours about because of this. Many still wondering if that case could have had anything to do with Daniel‘s wife‘s murder or if maybe Daniel‘s sometimes unpopular positions defending the accused as an analyst could be relevant.
We don‘t know at this point and we are expecting a press conference at any moment—sorry—at 6:30 Eastern Time, coming up from the authorities in Contra Costa County where we will get an update. But I spoke with Daniel earlier today and through the tears and the heartbreak, here‘s what he told me.
First and foremost, he had a temporary restraining order against a neighbor that had not been served. We‘re going to have more details of that in a minute.
And he believes the police are talking to that neighbor who had also been a caretaker at their home. Daniels believes his wife—quote—
“fought like hell”, as indicated by defensive wounds on her body. He thinks the murder happened in the morning, sometime after he left for a breakfast meeting and that the killer knew that he had left.
He‘s unsure if a knife was used in the attack. He also does not think the killer took anything from the home but believes that he or they cleaned up the crime scene. When police arrived, Daniel was put in a police car initially and was—quote—“treated like a suspect”, but he said that he expected that and that the police have been doing a fantastic job. Daniel later helped them reconstruct the crime scene and that‘s why he believes that it occurred in the morning.
Daniel also thinks that the Polk case probably had nothing to do with his wife‘s murder and contrary to reports out there, he says that there are not security cameras at his house. Now “My Take”—let me say this at the onset. Daniel Horowitz is not just a friend of the program. I consider him a personal friend of mine. We spent time together off the air in a social context.
Sure, we often disagree about the legal issues we cover, but on many occasions he‘s described this as the best legal show on television and I think part of that is the respect that we have for one another. I say this to let all of you know I feel like I have a personal stake in this one. I want to see this murder solved. Period.
Joining me now, Bruce Gerstman from the “Contra Costa Times” who‘s been following the story and reported an interesting scoop this morning. And longtime friend of Daniel Horowitz, Steve Mendelson, as well as Stephen Clark and also we have a forensic examiner and professor from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Larry Kobilinsky.
All right, before we start getting into the details of this restraining order, et cetera, Steve, let me ask you just about how Daniel‘s doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s doing as well as can be expected...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I haven‘t spoken to...
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry. You‘re both Steve.
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry. I apologize. Steve—why don‘t we start with Steve Mendelson?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you.
STEVE MENDELSON, DANIEL HOROWITZ‘S FRIEND & COLLEAGUE: He‘s doing as well as can be expected. He is grief stricken, but he‘s handling it. Sometimes he can‘t but it‘s nothing that wouldn‘t be expected. He is going into an analytic stance sometimes to try to figure out what happened and he‘s surrounded by his family and his wife‘s family and close friends and he has a lot of support now, so I‘m not worried about him.
ABRAMS: Stephen Clark, they—he told me that they took away his guns, he was saying because you know there was a fear of what he might do. He sort of said you know I would never do anything like that, but that‘s how much his wife meant to him.
STEPHEN CLARK, DANIEL HOROWITZ‘S FRIEND & COLLEAGUE: Yes. They had a great relationship. I had spent a lot of time with Dan recently on the Polk case. He had bounced things off me. We had shared ideas. I watched him make a brilliant opening statement the other day. His wife was present; she was helping him on the case. They were soul mates really and this is such a horrific situation for Dan.
My heart goes out to him and his family. Not only he‘s just a great attorney, but he‘s a great friend. He‘s someone who is always there to help people. Even in the middle of all of this, Susan Polk case, he‘s doing a matter pro per (ph), it just—pro bono, I‘m sorry—and it‘s just the kind of person he is. He works in a small store front office in Oakland and yet, he‘s handling all these high profile cases. He‘s a very unique individual and my heart goes out to him and I just know this is just a horrible, horrible situation and I hope that he can get through this.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me read this. This is a declaration in support of a restraining order from June 15, 2005. And this is from Daniel Horowitz himself, referring to a neighbor and caretaker who had been at their home in the past.
He has been violent in the past to the degree that he has attempted to kill himself. He is constantly seeking confrontation and it seems that the more people refuse to engage in confrontation with him, the harder he tries, and the further he goes to create it. Most important to me—and listen to this—is that he stay away from my wife Pamela.
That‘s from only months ago. Steve Mendelson, I‘ve got to believe that and I know that you know that Daniel would want them to question this person and we‘re going to hear from a press conference in 25 minutes from now that they have talked to this person.
MENDELSON: Yes, they have. Yes, they have. He is a prime suspect.
ABRAMS: When you say prime suspect, what does that mean?
MENDELSON: Well it was after the first thought, of course, that I had was the Susan Polk matter when I heard the horrible news. When you start dealing with it logically, he was the person around who was around, who had some kind of twisted motivation, who had access because he‘s just down the hill from them, so I would see him as a prime suspect.
ABRAMS: Stephen Clark, do you want add anything to that?
CLARK: Well clearly, this didn‘t appear to be a random-type situation. The home that they lived in is off the beaten track. It‘s not something that you would think that someone would drive by and then try to do a burglary, something like that. Certainly with the high profile nature of the Polk case and with the “Dateline” story on Friday night and then this happening on Saturday, it did enter my mind that perhaps this was somehow related to that, perhaps a former patient, something along those lines.
That has not proven to be true. There‘s also been a report that one of the Polk children who lived in the (INAUDIBLE) house is reporting a burglary or a screen missing from the house at around the same time, so initially, obviously that‘s one of the things that I suspected.
ABRAMS: Let‘s ask Bruce Gerstman about that from the “Contra Costa Times”. He‘s the one who broke that story.
Bruce, what can you tell us about that and anything else that you‘ve turned up about the investigation?
BRUCE GERSTMAN, “CONTRA COSTA TIMES” (via phone): Absolutely. Yes, I spoke with Eli Polk, that‘s the middle son of Susan Polk who is taking her side during this whole trial and he told me that someone had tried to break into his home by taking off a sliding—like a sliding door on the outside. He made reports to the police. They took fingerprints. At this point, you know there are no confirmed connections between anything about that. But that he did arrive home Sunday morning to find that.
ABRAMS: Do you know anything more about this neighbor and caretaker?
I mean look we know his name. We‘re just trying...
ABRAMS: ... to avoid saying it right at this point. Do you know anything more about the investigation into that person?
GERSTMAN: Yes, and I wanted to add to that it—we‘ve been keeping in touch with sheriff‘s deputies and at this point, they have made it very clear that he is not yet a suspect. He is someone they have spoken with out of various people. There are no named suspects yet. At 3:30, they may or may not discuss who those suspects, if there are any suspects...
ABRAMS: Right. My understanding is—because we spoke to the Contra Costa authorities about half an hour ago and they told us that they would not be naming any suspects or any arrests. They would give us an update on the investigation. I think they are going to specifically talk about their questioning of this person.
Let me read you some more from this restraining order, the declaration supportive of a restraining order. Again, June 15, 2005, this is what Daniel Horowitz is saying in response to the question did the person engage in a course of conduct that harassed you and cause substantial and emotional distress.
Answer: He‘s trying to create violence and conflict. It‘s an aspect of his mental illness and drug addiction. He has almost completely lost control and he refused to get treatment.
He goes on. He‘s a good person at his core, but he is seriously mentally ill. He is presently using meth and drinking heavily and during these periods he is delusional, threatening, violent, and dangerous.
Larry Kobilinsky, I mean look, I‘m intentionally not naming this person because I don‘t want—police haven‘t named him as a suspect but that allows me to ask you this question. Don‘t they automatically have to go talk to someone like this where there‘s been a restraining order application filed and I understand that it wasn‘t actually delivered upon him but they were able to get a temporary restraining order. That‘s important.
LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC EXAMINER: There‘s no question we have a person of interest here, but it‘s very important at this stage to keep an open mind because the worst thing that can happen is we develop a hypothesis and we don‘t collect all the evidence that might lead us down another path. We have a crime scene. We have a body. We know the crime scene has been cleaned up. We have an autopsy report. Definitely homicide was the manner of death, the cause of death still unknown. Did she know her assailant? How did he get access to the home? Could this have been a burglary that went bad or was this a targeted assassination?
KOBILINSKY: We don‘t know.
ABRAMS: This house is—I‘ve got to tell you this house is in the middle of nowhere. I mean you know Stephen Clark, I don‘t mean to suggest anything by saying that, but it‘s not the kind of place you pass by on the highway, right?
CLARK: Right. It‘s very remote. It‘s in a hilly area. It‘s sort of a mountainous-type of terrain. I just—it‘s just to get there have you to go on a dirt road. It‘s not the kind of place that the average person would just drive by and then look inside and decide to do a burglary. It just—that just doesn‘t add up and I think the police are dismissing that.
Clearly, there are people up in that area that are somewhat transient. There are you know those kinds of problems up there, but you know, the nature of the killing and that type of thing points to someone who would have known the Horowitzes and would have gone to the home for that particular purpose. You would think that the police would find some forensic evidence based on the information that we‘re hearing about the crime scene relative to the caretaker, although at this point, no one has spoken about that.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right and I‘ve got more coming up after this break from the declaration in support of the restraining order. Just more comments made by Daniel Horowitz in June about this person. Again, they haven‘t named anyone. I know that many people close to Daniel want the authorities to look at this person and I know that they have questioned him, so we shall see.
All right, Bruce Gerstman from the “Contra Costa Times”, thanks a lot.
We appreciate it. Everyone else is going to stick around.
Coming up, we are waiting for a statement from the police about the investigation that‘s coming in about 15 minutes. Now, Daniel‘s represented some pretty unsavory characters and he‘s taken some pretty unpopular positions on this show and others. Up next, we‘ll talk with a defense attorney and frequent guest who‘s had several death threats.
And the only suspect in Taylor Behl‘s murder has reportedly confessed to police that he killed her during sex but he said you know I didn‘t mean to. We‘ll talk to the reporter who broke the story and to her family‘s attorney. Guess what? He doesn‘t buy it.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL HOROWITZ, WIFE FOUND SLAIN IN HOME: And Amber, Dan, on the tapes says Scott I believe that you don‘t think that Conner was your baby. And you know, he might not have. Maybe the marriage was that rocky and that would really give...
HOROWITZ: ... a motive for murder but also a motive for a heat of passion killing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: More often than not, Daniel Horowitz has taken controversial positions when commenting on legal stories right here on this program. The question, any chance that those opinions, those positions could have had something to do with his wife‘s murder this weekend. Daniel found his wife, Pamela Vitale, slain in their home on Saturday evening. Police are actively investigating it as a homicide.
We spoke to the police a short time ago and they are telling us that they are going to have a press conference coming up at 6:30 Eastern Time, so that‘s in 13 minutes from now.
Jayne Weintraub joins us now as well, one of the criminal defense attorney...
ABRAMS: ... who also takes controversial positions on many of these cases and Jayne you were saying that sometimes as a result of the positions you‘ve taken on television you‘ve gotten death threats.
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well I‘ve gotten e-mails that are pretty hateful, but I really haven‘t taken them seriously, and the death threat that I did have, which was very serious, was when I was a prosecutor, although it didn‘t come to prohibition until years later when I was in private practice. But Dan let me tell you that criminal defense lawyers, we‘re defenders of people.
We‘re not a target of our clients. Divorce lawyers are more likely to have problems of violence with one another‘s clients than any one I know. But just the fact that Dan was—is a criminal defense lawyer and a successful well—you know well reputed defense lawyer doesn‘t mean that it had anything to do with his career.
ABRAMS: No, it doesn‘t. And what‘s interesting to me is I‘ve spoken with public defenders who have said to me that they actually think that they are more in danger than prosecutors when we were talking about funding, et cetera for courts, and we got a lot of letters from public defenders saying that they really need more funding to protect them.
But look, we don‘t know. We don‘t know that this had anything to do with any of the cases that he was involved in. But Steve Mendelson, long-time friend of Daniel‘s, we also know that Daniel owned guns and there was a reason for that.
MENDELSON: Yes. He, at times felt threatened. He felt that he should have a gun around for self-protection. There were times he had a gun loaded in his desk drawer because he had some concerns. When you have clients, regardless of the type of law you practice, people can get angry. When one is involved in the legal system, one is usually not very happy.
And that‘s why he kept a gun.
WEINTRAUB: I disagree. I think that when clients know that you‘re fighting for them and you‘re doing the absolute best that you can and you‘re making the best legal argument, I think that clients most of the time are happy with you no matter what you‘re doing...
WEINTRAUB: ... and that they know you‘re just a lawyer...
ABRAMS: I‘m sure most of the time that‘s the case, but you know Daniel is not crazy. I‘m sure that there was a reason that he was fearing something.
Stephen Clark, do you know anything about what Daniel may have been afraid of?
CLARK: No I don‘t and I have spent quite a bit of time with him recently and he didn‘t mention anything to me about a particular threat that he was concerned about, so he hadn‘t brought it up in any of the conversations that we had had. Now that doesn‘t necessarily mean they would be something that he would bring up to me. But he didn‘t mention it to me. He was very excited about the house and building the house and he was very happy with the way the Polk case was going. He, you know, they were ahead on points I think after watching that trial. I just—I hadn‘t heard anything about a particular threat.
ABRAMS: Let me read more...
WHITCOMB: Dan, maybe...
ABRAMS: Hang on. Let me read more from this declaration in support of this restraining order. Again, this is filed by Daniel Horowitz on June 15, 2005 with regard to a caretaker and neighbor, a former caretaker and neighbor he was trying to keep away from his wife.
He said at one point—this is actually from Pamela. He has never listened to me when I‘ve asked him to stay off my property, stop driving on our roads drunk with his unregistered vehicle, stop harassing the tenants, our workers, et cetera. He can‘t listen because he‘s not functioning on a rational basis. That is why I need this restraining order.
Steve Mendelson, did you know anything about this particular incident before Daniel found his wife?
MENDELSON: Oh, yes. Yes. He—they have had some problems with this neighbor for a while and Danny would discuss the facts with me briefly. I didn‘t store it in my brain because it didn‘t seem important at the time but it‘s been ongoing.
ABRAMS: Larry Kobilinsky, Daniel Horowitz told me today in a conversation that he believed that the crime scene had been cleaned up. What does that tell you?
KOBILINSKY: Well, it means that somebody was thinking about evidence that he may have left behind after committing the crime. Perhaps this is a person who watches “CSI” and programs of that sort. In other words, this person was not just in a rage, killed and ran, but was thoughtful enough to clean up after himself.
But I must say we do not have a motive. We don‘t even know if this is related to Dan Horowitz or not. We have to keep an open mind. I keep saying although this is a very important issue that we have a person of interest, we shouldn‘t lock ourselves into just that. We should look at the crime scene, look at the evidence, look at the totality and come up with some hypothesis as to what may have happened.
ABRAMS: What about the fact that Daniel told me that there were—he noticed many defensive wounds on his wife, saying that he believed she—quote—“fought like hell.”
KOBILINSKY: Well you know that‘s a very important factor and I repeat again we don‘t know the cause of death. We don‘t know what the weapon was. We don‘t know if the killer brought a weapon with him. Was it a knife?
KOBILINSKY: Was she bludgeoned?
ABRAMS: And we‘re going to find that out in about eight minutes from now. We‘re expecting the authorities to announce the manner and the cause of death...
ABRAMS: Let me—very quickly, Janey, yes.
WEINTRAUB: The fact that the crime scene was attempted to be cleaned up doesn‘t mean that they won‘t use luminol, get blood results, any way if there are defensive wounds, maybe she used her nails. Maybe there‘ll be hand scrapings underneath him or her, whoever is being questioned, and hopefully in a few minutes we‘ll hear that there‘s an arrest.
ABRAMS: All right. I know we‘re going to end up—I don‘t think—we‘re not going to hear, I don‘t think that there‘s an arrest but I think we are going to get an update on the investigation from them and again, 6:30 Eastern Time, a few minutes from now. So as a result of that, we‘re going to be talking about the investigation. Again, I want to bring this back to the personal side of it.
Stephen Clark, tell me a little bit about Pamela Vitale.
CLARK: Well from what Dan describes her, she‘s really his life partner. She would be in court supporting him. She was the technology person, you know he just spoke so fondly of her, and she was so active in his life. It‘s just a tragic, tragic situation.
This is a second marriage for both, but it was a life partner and it just makes me so, just terribly sorry for Dan. He‘s someone that I just care about dearly and we‘ve had our arguments over things, like the Peterson case, but he‘s just a man who will help everyone he can, including doing pro bono work for people in the middle of a first—degree murder case.
CLARK: It‘s just very, very sad.
ABRAMS: I remember him talking to me about the fact that they have both been married before and he really felt like he had really found the right person. Steve Mendelson, a final thought on that.
MENDELSON: She was a wonderful person and so is Dan. They put each other as high on a pedestal as you can imagine. They both were convinced that they were the best person in the world for them. It is such a tragedy. It is inconceivable to me because they were so much love that this has happened.
ABRAMS: All right. Everyone‘s going to stick around, if I can ask all of you to take a moment and stay with us. Because we are awaiting a live statement from the Sheriff‘s Office investigating Pamela Vitale‘s murder. That is coming up at 6:30, five minutes from now after the break, and we are expecting a full update on where things stand in this investigation.
And big news in the Taylor Behl murder case, the only suspect reportedly confesses to police he killed the Virginia college freshman her during sex but guess what, he‘s got an explanation. We‘ll talk to the reporter who broke the story. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we‘re waiting for a live update from the Sheriff‘s Office investigating the murder of our regular guest and defense attorney Daniel Horowitz‘s wife. First the headlines.
ABRAMS: You‘re looking at a live picture of what we are expecting is going to be a press conference from the Contra Costa Sheriff‘s Office. They‘ve been investigating the murder of Daniel Horowitz‘s wife. Remember Daniel Horowitz is a regular guest on this program, a well-known attorney and legal analyst. And so the question has been who would have wanted to kill his wife?
Daniel was involved in some very controversial cases. He made controversial comments on the air, but there is no evidence to suggest that someone wanted to get him in any way. We simply don‘t know. The only other piece of evidence that we‘ve been talking about is the fact that there was a restraining order that was filed against a former caretaker and neighbor of the Horowitzes, where Daniel Horowitz said on June 15, 2005, most important to me is that he stay away from my wife, Pamela.
We know that the authorities there have questioned this man. But again we don‘t know the status. We do expect that they‘re going to update us on the questioning of that man as well. Here‘s what else we know, about what we‘re expecting from this press conference.
We are expecting that they‘re going to have a statement. No question and answers. That they are going to provide an update on the investigation and that is going to be coming any minute. So as we wait, we‘re joined again by our legal team, including two very close friends of Daniel Horowitz and Larry Kobilinsky, forensic expert and Jayne Weintraub.
Larry, they have to be careful about what they say at this point, don‘t they? I mean they don‘t want any statements being used to suggest that they rushed to judgment. They want to take their time. This is still early in the investigation.
KOBILINSKY: That‘s very true. We‘ve heard it over and over again when they focus in on a particular individual, that individual becomes a defendant. The defense will say it was a rush to judgment and because of that, you neglected to look into the other possibilities. That‘s why it‘s so important to look at the evidence and see where it leads you. You have to keep an open mind. If you focus on one individual, you could be overlooking something that would point in another direction. My goodness, we don‘t even have a motive yet and as I said, it may not even be related to Dan Horowitz. We just don‘t know.
ABRAMS: Steve Mendelson, as I was talking to Daniel Horowitz today, he would waver between being a purely emotional, devastated husband and then for a couple of moments, I would see him—I‘d hear him be able to kind of analyze the situation before he would sort of go back into being just absolutely in tears. Did you notice that when you spoke to him?
MENDELSON: Yes, well I spent about five hours with him yesterday and that was—I found that a lot. He would spend quite a bit of time analyzing the data because it was a way of bringing himself out of his grief.
ABRAMS: We are going to learn or we‘re expecting to learn the cause and manner of death, which is one of the big issues and big questions in this case at this press conference that we‘re expecting to begin at any moment. Daniel Horowitz told me earlier today that the primary wound was on the front of her head. He simply could not tell if a knife was used or if it was simply a blunt object.
And that is one of the important, important details we are expected to learn. We are also expecting them to address what they are describing as false rumors. They are going to have a statement. They are going to update the investigation.
Now, I should say we also asked whether they‘re able to clear Daniel as a suspect—a possible suspect at this time. Remember, Daniel said to me initially they put him in the back of a police car and questioned him for hours and he said and then he went back and helped them reconstruct the crime scene.
Quote—“They said we are talking to a number of people. We have talked to him. He has been very cooperative. We are not focusing on one person. I‘m going to leave it at that.”
Stephen Clark, I expect that they are going to be able to clear Daniel in the near future.
CLARK: Clearly they will and I don‘t think in any way, they think of him as a suspect. I‘m sure that they want to say there is objectivity in the investigation so they don‘t want to clear or point their fingers at anyone too soon. But no one believes that Dan had anything to do with this.
ABRAMS: But apart from believing...
CLARK: No way.
ABRAMS: ... that anyone—I mean let‘s put that aside for a moment. Now, let‘s talk, Larry Kobilinsky, just about strategy. Let‘s assume for a moment that they believe just that. What I think all of us hope and believe. That they are going to be able to say you know what, we‘ve—we were able to say that Daniel is not being investigated. They still have to be careful though, don‘t they, about exactly what they say because then other people are going to say, well, I want my name cleared as well.
KOBILINSKY: Well, absolutely. I mean what we need now is not just good science. We need a good, thorough investigation. For all we know, she was getting threats on the phone, over the Internet. I mean there‘s a lot of work that has to be done to really decide who is a person of interest, who were the suspects. There‘s a lot of questions that are...
KOBILINSKY: ... still unanswered.
ABRAMS: We are waiting for a press conference on the murder of my friend, a friend of this program as well, Daniel Horowitz‘s wife, killed over the weekend and the authorities have already been investigating this. Daniel said to me, he gives them an A in how they‘ve been conducting the investigation so far. And they are going to give us, as I said, an update on exactly where the case is, et cetera.
Steve Mendelson, do you think—I mean Daniel gave me the impression that he is very comfortable with the investigators, very comfortable with the way the authorities have dealt with this despite the fact that he says they—quote—“treated him like a suspect” in the first couple of hours. He said he expected that.
MENDELSON: Yes, it doesn‘t surprise me at all that they did. The husband is a logical suspect in any murder case.
ABRAMS: The police are now telling us that they will make this announcement in less than five minutes. I am being told they are printing the statement as we speak, which again, is expected to be a statement, tell us the cause and manner of the death, which is going to be very important. Larry Kobilinsky is going to be draw a lot of conclusions about what happened here, once we learn that.
They‘re going to update the case at this point. They‘re going to address some false rumors. This is it. I mean this is the first time we‘re going to get any real information on this. Why don‘t we do this? Why don‘t we take a break here. We‘re going to come back. Again, we‘re going—if we‘re in the middle of this commercial this press conference starts, we‘re going to pop it up, so be back in a minute. Live press conference.
ABRAMS: At any moment we are expecting a press conference to begin. Contra Costa County, the Sheriff‘s Department there announcing an update on the investigation into the killing of legal analyst Daniel Horowitz‘s wife this weekend. We‘ll bring it to you live in a moment.
ABRAMS: All right, we continue to wait for this press conference to begin. We are told that it‘s going to happen any moment. That the authorities are printing up a statement. This from the Contra Costa County Sheriff‘s Office. They are handling the investigation into the homicide of Pamela Vitale, the wife of prominent lawyer, Daniel Horowitz.
Horowitz is a frequent guest on this program and as I‘ve said before, he is a friend of mine and as a result, I feel like I‘ve got a stake—a personal stake in this one. I want this case to be solved for Daniel‘s sake, for the sake of justice and we are going to get the cause and manner of death. I can tell you when I spoke with Daniel Horowitz earlier today, he told me that he couldn‘t determine from when he saw the body, and he said it was all very cloudy at this point because he was so distraught, that he cannot say whether a knife was used or whether it was just a blunt force object.
But that he noticed that the wound was on the front of her head and he also believed that the crime scene had been cleaned up. What is this picture—did you say? Oh, all right, so we continue to look at pictures. This is not the main house that he lived in. You can see we have other pictures of the construction to the main property.
I don‘t know what that was that we were—oh, that—OK. Right. All right, that was the trailer where the actual crime occurred. The family‘s been staying in that trailer while their house is being renovated. You see the enormous house to the left there of the smaller trailer, but it was the trailer where the murder occurred. They were staying there while they did massive renovations to the home.
Steve Mendelson, long-time friend of Daniel Horowitz, how long has this—let‘s go to the press conference.
JIMMY LEE, CONTRA COUNTY‘S SHERIFF‘S OFFICE: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE) Well thanks for your patience. I apologize for being late here. What I‘m going to do is make a statement. There‘s going to be no Q & A. I‘m not going to take any questions. Please keep in mind we have to be sensitive to the ongoing investigation and out of respect for the victim‘s family. The autopsy of Pamela Vitale took place this morning, started at about 9:30. That procedure lasted about three and a half hours. The cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma to the head. The manner of death is listed as homicide.
From the moment we received this case, we have approached this case as a homicide. This morning, there were a large number of rumors and misinformation floating around out there. I want to clarify some things. As far as the investigation goes, no one is under arrest. We have nobody in custody right now. This is still a wide open investigation. We are looking at all possible theories and motives. We‘re not focused in one area.
So far, we have interviewed dozens of people. We are looking to interview many more people. It‘s routine in a case like this, you want to talk to as many people as possible to try to get a better idea of what happened. It‘s still a wide open investigation and we have nobody in custody. We have interviewed Mr. Daniel Horowitz. He has been very cooperative. We‘ve also interviewed Mr. Joseph Lynch. He has been very cooperative.
We‘re looking to interview many more people. We have talked to all the neighbors and again, it‘s standard in a case like this, we try to talk to as many people as possible. We‘re not focused on anyone, nor have we ruled anyone out. It‘s still a wide open investigation. Crime lab personnel are still at the scene collecting evidence. We‘ll test that evidence. We‘ll analyze it to see if there‘s any relevance in this case. This is all we‘re saying right now about our investigation. We‘re not planning any further media briefings or press conferences unless we have something substantial or some major development in the case.
One last thing, we do have a tip line established. If you guys can help us get that number out. That tip line is 1-866-846-3592. Callers who call this tip line will remain anonymous. They can leave a message and one of our detectives will call that person back and talk to that person. Once again, that tip line is 1-866-846-3592. That‘s our statement for today and once again, we‘re not planning any further briefings or press conferences unless we have a major development in the case. Thank you.
LEE: My name is Jimmy Lee. I‘m the spokesperson for the Contra Costa County Sheriff‘s Office. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Jimmy Lee from the Contra Costa County Sheriff‘s Office and I‘m just going to tell you what I think is the most important thing he just said and that is the phone number to help solve this case, 1-866-846-3592. If you have got any information on who might have been involved in Pamela Vitale‘s death, please give them a call. This sounds like it is an investigation that is still open.
Now, what did we just learn? We have learned that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, entirely consistent with what Daniel told me on the phone earlier today. That this was a homicide. No one is under arrest. Dozens of people interviewed. They have interviewed Daniel Horowitz. He has been very cooperative. They have also interviewed Joseph Lynch. That‘s the name that we were holding off on, but I have to tell you, he is now quoted in The Associated Press, talking about this case, so I will now talk about him as well since he is publicly making comments about it.
He is the one who Daniel Horowitz had sought a restraining order—temporary restraining order against. He is the one where Daniel Horowitz had written that most important to me, is that he stay away from my wife, Pamela. He talked about all sorts of problems that this guy had had, et cetera, and all sorts of other reasons that he wanted him away from his home. The authorities have interviewed him. They say he has been very cooperative.
Here‘s what Lynch told The Associated Press. He said he often had an amicable relationship with the couple, but also acknowledged that there had been friction over the years. Lynch said the request for the restraining order probably stemmed from—quote—“when I was driving through their property, trying to get to the back ranch. I was speeding. I‘m kind of a reckless driver.” Lynch said his attack dog once lunged at Horowitz, police was called.
Lynch said he got rid of the dog. Lynch said he was on the property the day Vitale was found dead. He said he spent the day walking his German Shepherd and was building a door for the dog when he heard sirens and squealing tires and began getting calls from concerned neighbors. So that is what we know at this time.
Larry Kobilinsky, blunt force trauma to the head.
KOBILINSKY: Well, that tells me that most likely some instrument was used over the head, most likely the skull was fractured, resulting in subdural bleeding and that resulted in her death. I was surprised not to hear about the time of death. As we know, Dan Horowitz mentioned that he thought that it happened in the morning. That‘s something that is part of an autopsy. So I think what we get out of this is that there‘s a weapon out there and now it is essential that the entire crime scene, whatever that is, however you delimit that area, they have to look for whatever was used to kill her.
ABRAMS: Steve Mendelson, Daniel is convinced, based on my conversation with him, that this occurred in the morning. It sounds like he went through and reconstructed the crime scene with the police there. They looked at dishes. They looked at cups. They looked at sort of what items Pamela would have used in the house at certain times and he actually believes that he may have called the house from or just after breakfast around almost exactly at the time when he thinks that she may have been killed.
MENDELSON: Yes, that‘s correct. That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: Hang on. Hang on one sec...
ABRAMS: Jayne, Jayne, hang on one sec. Steve, I‘m sorry. Just finish—I want you to give...
MENDELSON: He left the house in the morning to go to the office and work or meet people concerning the case. And...
ABRAMS: Do you know what it was, Steve, exactly? I mean he just said to me that based on where the dishes were located and the cups, et cetera, he was convinced that it happened in the morning. Do you know anything more?
MENDELSON: I don‘t know how much I should say...
MENDELSON: ... because of the investigation, so I‘m a little reluctant to give specifics.
ABRAMS: OK. Jayne, I‘m sorry, what did you want to add?
WEINTRAUB: What I was going to say is I‘m sure that Dan having done murder cases like I have and the investigators I‘m sure know about the rigor mortis that sets in very quickly and you can basically tell the investigators who responded to the scene will be able to tell how long somebody has been dead...
WEINTRAUB: ... hours, minutes, and I‘m sure that‘s how we know. Also you know there‘s a ton of forensics that they‘re waiting for. Nail scrapings...
WEINTRAUB: ... hopefully, you know Ms. Vitale was scraping at the suspect. We don‘t know if they need warrants to get body pictures of any potential suspect. I‘m a little you know disturbed that they have not cleared Dan, publicly, because I join you and I think immediately they should have been supportive and grieving with him.
ABRAMS: Let me just add one final thought here. Again, Daniel, we‘re all rooting for you and we are hoping that you‘ll be able to get through this very difficult time. I know how hard this is for you and I just want you to know and you‘ll hear if we get a chance to do letters at the end of the show, how many of my viewers have been writing in with support for Daniel. As I‘ve said before, we may not agree on the issues, but we agree that we respect and admire one another and I just—I like him -- 1-866-846-3592. If you‘ve got any information, please, please help the authorities on this one.
Thank you all. Jayne Weintraub, Steve Mendelson, Steve Clark, Larry Kobilinsky, appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
WEINTRAUB: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the only suspect in the Taylor Behl murder case reportedly confesses to police, saying he killed the college freshman during sex. Shocker. He‘s got an explanation.
ABRAMS: We may have a big break in the investigation into the murder of Richmond college student Taylor Behl. Joining me now on the phone, Jim Nolan, of the “Richmond Times-Dispatch”. He‘s been following the story and breaking a lot of stories in this.
Jim, what do you know?
JIM NOLAN, “RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH” REPORTER (via phone): Well Dan, we were told last week that Benjamin Fawley, the suspect in Taylor‘s death, had wanted to talk to police and confirmed in fact that he did make a statement to police. What we understand now from that statement is that Benjamin Fawley has admitted to being with Taylor Behl the night she died and saying that the death occurred during what he described was an accidental incident that happened while they were involved in a sexual encounter.
ABRAMS: And how does he explain the fact that he was saying before he reported to police that he was abducted and kidnapped the same night that Taylor went missing?
NOLAN: Well that‘s a clear contradiction that I‘m sure police are in the process of trying to vet right now, Dan. He also says that he panicked after he said Taylor accidentally died during this encounter and later disposed of her body in the ravine where it was found approximately one month later.
ABRAMS: And the authorities are still investigating. They haven‘t actually filed charges yet, right?
NOLAN: No, they haven‘t. In fact, they‘re waiting on a final autopsy result from the medical examiner and they also have other tests. What they‘re also trying to, of course, is they‘re not taking Ben Fawley‘s story at his word.
NOLAN: They‘re in the process of trying to prove or disprove certain portions of what he‘s told them.
ABRAMS: Let me play this piece of sound very quickly from her mother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET PELASARA, TAYLOR BEHL‘S MOTHER: Mr. Fawley‘s story is now that her death was accidental. Let‘s be clear. Ben Fawley murdered my daughter. His claim that it was accidental is just one more perversion of his truth in his ever changing web of lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, so they‘re not buying it. All right, Jim Nolan, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
NOLAN: Thank you Dan.
ABRAMS: Be right back.
NOLAN: Thank you Dan.
ABRAMS: We‘re out of time. But let me just say again, Daniel Horowitz, our thoughts are with you. We‘re hoping this case is going to get solved very quickly in connection with the murder of his wife.
Again, if you‘ve got any information, 866-846-3592. See you tomorrow.
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