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:
- Contra Costa Times, Special Report: The Pamela Vitale Case, including:
- Murder suspect described as bright, drifter by Nathaniel Hoffman and Sara Steffens, Thu, Oct. 20, 2005
- Teen neighbor held in slaying by Kelli Phillips, Nathaniel Hoffman and Kiley Russell, Fri, Oct. 21, 2005
- Lafayette teen charged with murder by Nathaniel Hoffman and Bruce Gerstman, Fri, Oct. 21, 2005
- Dyleski pleads not guilty to murder by Bruce Gerstman, Thu, Nov. 10, 2005
- Brutal details released in Vitale murder case by Ashley Surdin and Bruce Gerstman, Thu, Nov. 17, 2005. (In this story, both the prosecutor and the public defender sought the continuation of a gag order that had been issued on October 27. Deputy district attorney Harold Jewett complained about sensationalistic media coverage: "He argued that the national and local press have made statements based on rumors, citing the examples of Dyleski using Satanism and a theory that Dyleski killed Vitale because he was upset over the death of his dog." Jewett is quoted as saying, "The people are not aware of any evidence related to Satanism. That's highly inflammatory.")
- Gag order in Dyleski case county's first in decades by Bruce Gerstmanm, Tue, Nov. 22, 2005
- Friend casts suspicion on Dyleski by Bruce Gerstman and Kelli Phillips, Sun, Feb. 12, 2006
- Symbols in bedroom tied to killing by Bruce Gerstman and Kelli Phillips, Wed, Feb. 15, 2006
- Dyleski's friend tells of drug plot by Bruce Gerstman, Thu, Feb. 16, 2006
- Dyleski will stand trial in Vitale slaying by Ryan Huff, Fri, Feb. 17, 2006 - mentions DNA evidence.
- Dyleski must stand trial, judge orders by Ryan Huff, Sat, Feb. 18, 2006
- Prosecutor seeks burglary charge against Dyleski by Bruce Gerstman, Thu, Mar. 02, 2006
- Dyleski's trial to start July 17, judge decides by Bruce Gerstman, Fri, Mar. 03, 2006
- News tracker : Scott Dyleski on ReligionNewsBlog, including Friend: Dyleski 'outgrew the Goth phase' by Jason Dearen, Tri Valley Herald, USA, Oct. 28, 2005
- On the matter of DNA evidence: Update: Judge Says There's Sufficient Cause to Believe Dyleski Is Guilty Martinez, Bay City News Wire, cbs5.com, 02/17/06
And here are some national news stories, plus even a Canadian news story:
- CBS News:
- Peers: Vitale Suspect Into Satan, CBS/AP, Martinez, Calif., Oct. 21, 2005. (Another copy of this same AP story can be found on the Fox News site.)
- Teen Charged For Vitale Murder, CBS/AP, Martinez, Calif., Oct. 22, 2005
- Vitale Murder Suspect's Dark Life, Lafayette, Calif., Oct. 25, 2005
- New Theory On Motive In Vitale Slaying, CBS, Oct 29, 2005. (Presents the theory that Dyleski killed Vitale because he was upset over the death of his dog, an idea dismissed by the prosecutor in this Contra Costa Times story, Nov. 17, 2005.
- Horowitz accused dabbled in Satanism by Michelle Locke, Associated Press, Canoe News (Canada), October 21, 2005
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:
- Did A Goth Lifestyle Lead to Pamela Vitale's Murder?, FOX News, Friday, October 28, 2005, "partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity," interviewing Dawn Perlmutter, author of the book Investigating Religious Terrorism and Ritualistic Crimes. (See my comments in my collection of news stories about Dawn Perlmutter, and see also my collection of commentary about Dawn Perlmutter and her Institute for the Research of Organized and Ritual Violence.)
- MSNBC: Van Zandt: When evil comes knocking by Clint Van Zandt, MSNBC analyst & former FBI profiler, Oct. 25, 2005
- FindLaw: The Murder of Pamela Vitale, Famed Defense Attorney Daniel Horowitz's Wife: Though a Suspect is Now in Custody, He May Get Off on A Reasonable Doubt Defense by Jonna M. Spilbor, Monday, Oct. 24, 2005
- The Pamela Vitale Murder: Satanic or Ritualistic Crime and Murder by Jim Kouri, CPP, October 22, 2005. (For my comments on this article, see my page about Jim Kouri.)
And here is some anti-Satanist/anti-Goth scaremongering commentary from a less credentialed though still fairly high-profile source:
- Gaming, Goth and Satanism - Crossing over to the Dark Side: The Murder of Pamela Vitale by Pat Brown, who seems to think that anyone with a serious interest in either the Goth scene or Satanism - or even role-playing games, for that matter - is likely to commit violent crimes.
Pat Brown calls herself a "criminal profiler," and, according to this page on AuthorsDen, she appears weekly on CourtTV's crime series I, Detective! But apparently she has not worked in law enforcement, nor does she seem to have studied any relevant academic field. She is the author of a book Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, available on Amazon, where some of the customer reviews note her lack of qualifications. In her article One Little, Two Little, Three Little Serial Killers: How many are there - really? she pretty much admits to a lack of knowledge of statistics; thus she clearly is not a social scientist of any kind. I won't deny the possibility that there can be some very good amateurs in the field of criminology, but still.... I found some interesting pages by Steve Huff and Brent E. Turvey containing some commentary about Pat Brown.
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:
- Lorraine Cross - free online dictionary
- The Cross of Lorraine in a collection of reference pages about The Cross
- Cross of Lorraine (Cross of Anjou) on About.com
- The Cross of Lorraine on a website devoted to Charles de Gaulle
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.