Against Satanic Panics > Recent cases > Scott Dyleski / Pamela Vitale

Scott Dyleski and the murder of Pamela Vitale

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

In Lafeyette, California, on Wednesday, October 19, 2005, Scott Dyleski was arrested for the murder of Pamela Vitale, wife of well-known defense attorney Daniel Horowitz. The case attracted national mass media attention, and a lot of commentators made a big to-do over the teenage defendant's alleged involvement in both Satanism and the Goth scene.

The case is scheduled to go to trial on July 17, 2006. In the meantime, factual details are murky because a gag order has been imposed. However, based on what I could glean from local news media, it appears that (1) the prosecutor has stated that he is "not aware of any evidence related to Satanism," and (2) the kid seems to have dabbled in both Satanism and the Goth scene - or at least Goth fashion - but seems to have given up his interest in both by the time of the murder.

Here's what I was able to find by way of local news coverage:

And here are some national news stories, plus even a Canadian news story:

Based on what I've been able to find online, it seems that the "Satanism" and "Goth" themes were played up quite a bit more in the national (and international) coverage than in the local coverage.

Here is some very high-profile commentary that made a big to-do about Dyleski's alleged "Satanism" and/or "Goth" interests:

And here is some anti-Satanist/anti-Goth scaremongering commentary from a less credentialed though still fairly high-profile source:

Various news stories and commentators have made a big deal about about a mark that was carved on Pamela Vitale's body after she was killed, in the shape of a double-crossed T, also known as the Lorraine Cross. Supposedly this is a "Satanic symbol," or, according to some accounts, a "Goth symbol." In fact, it's neither - at least for the most part. I recently became aware that at least one public Satanist, Church of Satan member Boyd Rice, does use the Lorraine Cross (see his articles about it here and here; I am not inclined to take his historical claims seriously). But the Lorraine cross is not in common use among Satanists, and it has a long history which has nothing to do with Satanism. See the following pages about the Lorraine Cross:

A Lorraine cross by itself is not a Satanic symbol. Anton LaVey did use, on the "Nine Satanic Statements" page of his Satanic Bible, a symbol similar to the one below at the left, consisting of a Lorraine cross atop an infinity sign (figure 8 on its side).

Historically, this is a symbol used by medieval alchemists to represent brimstone (sulfur), which Christians have traditionally associated with Hell. LaVey probably intended the brimstone symbol as a humorous gesture to poke fun at Christian ideas of Hell and the Devil. (Thanks to William Connor, a regular in my Theistic Satanism forums, for directing me to some information about the brimstone symbol.)

But the mark that was carved on the body of Pamela Vitale was a plain Lorraine cross, not the alchemical brimstone symbol. What did it mean to the perpetrator? We don't know.

Was the mark on Pamela Vitale's body symmetrical and drawn with close-to-perfect right angles? If not, then, with the angles made oblique, the "Lorraine cross" could perhaps have been meant as a mathematical not-equals sign.

Only the perpetrator knows for sure what the mark was supposed to mean, if anything. For all we know, perhaps the mark wasn't even intended to be a symbol of any kind, but just some gratuitous further cuts on the victim's body.

Now for some observations about other aspects of the Scott Dyleski case:

As I mentioned earlier, there has been a gag order imposed in the Dyleski case. As the local news reports have noted, such a gag order in a criminal case, even a high-profile criminal case, is a bit unusual. What makes it seem even stranger, at least to some people, is that the gag order seems to have been sought mainly by the prosecutor, for the stated purpose of protecting the defendant's right to a fair trial. Most likely the prosecutor is just hoping to avoid the expensive possibility of the case being appealed due to jury bias. However, the prosecutor's desire for a gag order has led some people to speculate that perhaps the prosecutor might have something to hide. See, for example, The Murder of Pamela Vitale: Why the Media Can't Report Much on Suspect Scott Dyleski by Kathryn Joanne Dixon, February 2, 2006, on the conspiracy-theory site NewsMakingNews, a site which also has the following pages about the legal case that attorney Daniel Horowitz was involved in at the time his wife Pamela Vitale was murdered: (1) Susan Polk Lawyers Up. Famed Attorneys Daniel Horowitz and Ivan Golde take on the sexist Contra Costa County Courts by Virginia McCullough, August 30, 2005; (2) Opening Statements in the Susan Polk Murder Trial: Deceased Felix Polk Speaks to the Jury by Virginia McCullough, October 11, 2005; and (3) The Susan Polk Murder Trial - The Other Side of the Story (Part 1) by Virginia McCullough, March 27, 2006. (This website also has some anti-Satanist scaremongering pages such as the Satanism and Ritual Abuse archive by Diana Napolis, a.k.a. Karen Curio Jones. For my response to that page, see my Comments on Dawn Perlmutter's Fall 2003 paper "The Forensics of Sacrifice: A Symbolic Analysis of Ritualistic Crime".)

When Pamela Vitale was murdered, her husband Daniel Horowitz was in the midst of defending Susan Polk, who was on trial for the murder of her husband, Felix Polk. Coincidentally, the Polks were also the parents of someone who, as a child, had allegedly been abused in one of the alleged "Satanic Ritual Abuse" (SRA) cases involving childcare centers back in the 1980's. (See Court TV's full coverage of the Susan Polk murder trial. Some other relevant news stories include Orinda man slain amid acid divorce: Wife says he coerced her as teen by Charlie Goodyear, San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, October 16, 2002, and Son testifies against own mother in murder trial by Jason Dearen, Tri-Valley Herald, USA, Mar. 9, 2006. For information about the SRA scare, see my page of links about The "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare of the 1980's and early 1990's.) Various conspiracy theorists, whom I won't bother to list here, have had a field day with this fact.

While Googling on the string "Scott Dyleski Satanism," I came across the following page on what appears to be the blog of a college student taking a course in journalism: Rough, rough rough draft of article 2 by Whitney Worden, October 26, 2005. Worden defends the Goth scene but makes some unpleasant overgeneralizations about Satanism and what she calls "Satanic cults." She later posted a much better blog entry, Help?, on November 29, 2005.

I also came across a bunch of blog entries in an Archive for the 'Scott Dylesky' category on The Trenchcoat Chronicles, a blog whose owner, "Trench Reynolds," says that a previous website of his was wrongly connected to the Columbine killings back in 1999. (See Foreword and Columbine Backlash, Sunday, April 30, 2000.) At least one of his blog entries, More on Scott Dyleski, Friday Oct 21, 2005, has some very interesting responses by people who say they are friends of Scott Dyleski. I've posted a reply to another of his blog entries, Hippies file charges in Dyleski search, Thursday Apr 13, 2006.

Is Scott Dyleski guilty of murder? Based on the DNA evidence, it would seem so. However, even purported DNA evidence isn't necessarily infallible, so let's wait and see what kinds of objections to it are raised to it at the trial. Let's wait and see what other evidence is presented at the trial too.

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