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Teen Convicted In 2005 Lafayette Murder Wants Case Reopened

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Scott Dyleski was found guilty in the 2005 murder of Pamela Vitale in her Lafayette home. (Pool Photo)

Scott Dyleski was found guilty in the 2005 murder of Pamela Vitale in her Lafayette home. (Pool Photo)

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MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — Scott Dyleski, who as a teenager was convicted of murdering the wife of East Bay defense attorney Daniel Horowitz, has asked the Contra Costa County Superior Court to reopen his case.

Dyleski’s lawyers claim in a habeas corpus petition filed on May 23 that his defense attorney in his 2006 trial failed to investigate the possibility that a different person, perhaps Horowitz, may have murdered Pamela Vitale.

Dyleski, now 22, was convicted in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 2006 of murdering Vitale, 52, in the couple’s rural Lafayette home on Oct. 15, 2005, by bludgeoning her with a rock-like weapon.

Prosecutors alleged the crime stemmed from a scheme by Dyleski and another teenager to buy marijuana-growing equipment with credit cards stolen from neighbors.

Dyleski, of Lafayette, was two weeks short of his 17th birthday at the time of the murder and 17 when convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

The habeas corpus petition comes after Dyleski lost his direct appeals in a state appeals court, the California Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court. It asks for a hearing and an order for a new trial.

Horowitz on Tuesday rejected the allegations of possible circumstantial evidence against him.

“They’re just making things up right and left. It makes me angry,” he said.

Horowitz said his whereabouts on the morning Vitale was killed—at business meetings and a gym—have been “thoroughly checked.” Horowitz discovered Vitale’s body on returning home that evening.

Horowitz said that while the allegations are distressing, the painful part of the case remains the murder itself.

“Pamela was murdered. That’s what’s painful. She was killed,” Horowitz said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett, the prosecutor in the trial, said, “They’re grappling at straws here.”

Jewett said the evidence of Dyleski’s guilt, including a bloody shoeprint and Vitale’s blood on shoes and clothes linked to Dyleski, was “irrefutable.”

“I don’t know how much clearer it could be,” Jewett said.

The two lawyers who filed the petition, Kate Hallinan and Sara Zalkin, of San Francisco, were hired by Dyleski’s mother, Esther Fielding, in late February to pursue further appeals through the habeas corpus process after Dyleski’s direct appeals failed.

Hallinan said Tuesday that while the petition is based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the attorneys believe that Dyleski is in fact innocent.

“We truly believe there was an incredible travesty of justice,” she said.

In a habeas corpus proceeding, a court receiving a petition has the options of either holding a hearing or dismissing the case without a hearing. If a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge dismisses Dyleski’s petition, his lawyers can appeal and then can file a similar petition in the federal court system.

Dyleski’s lawyer at his trial, former Deputy Contra Costa County Public Defender Ellen Leonida, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Leonida is now an assistant federal public defender in Oakland.

Vitale was found to have been bludgeoned at least 26 times on the head. The killer also stabbed her in the abdomen and carved the letter H on her back.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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