By Lisa Sweetingham
Adjust font size:
MARTINEZ, California (COURT TV) -- A California judge sentenced 17-year-old Scott Dyleski to life in prison without parole for bludgeoning the wife of a prominent criminal defense attorney to death.
"You do not deserve to live among decent people," Judge Barbara Zuniga told Dyleski.
"You concealed your identity by wearing a mask and gloves, by wearing a long coat," the judge added, describing the circumstances of the crime.
"You planned this, sir, and this was a very brutal killing," she continued. "As she lay dying at your feet, you proceeded to stab her. That was unnecessary. You added to her pain, Mr. Dyleksi."
Victim Pamela Vitale's parents, her sister, her two children and her husband, attorney and legal analyst Daniel Horowitz, gave tearful statements. They described lives shattered by the loss of a woman whose smile and contagious laughter could fill a room. (Full coverage)
Teen is silent
Dyleski chose not to make a statement. He did not express any emotion during the hearing.
His lawyer pleaded with the judge to give the teen "the slimmest opportunity" of a chance at parole after he serves 25 years in prison for the brutal murder of Vitale, his 52-year-old neighbor.
"Scott Dyleski made a terrible mistake," public defender Ellen Leonida said. "There is always the possibility that he can mature into a responsible, productive citizen."
A jury found Dyleski guilty of first-degree murder on August 28. He was also convicted of the special circumstance of murder committed during the commission of a burglary. He was tried as an adult, but was ineligible for the death penalty because he was 16 at the time of the murder.
Dyleski has never publicly admitted to killing Vitale or divulged details about why he attacked her as she was sitting alone in her living room in rural Lafayette, California, on a Saturday morning, Web surfing for news of her husband's recent court cases and researching her family's genealogy.
"I beg of you, put our minds to rest," Vitale's daughter, Marisa, said in a pre-sentencing statement to the court. "Tell us what the last moments of our mother's life were here on Earth."
Victim's son: 'You got lost'
The victim's son, Mario, said he had discovered during the month-long trial that he had things in common with Dyleski: They were both raised by a single mother, were considered "weird" in school, and both had musical aptitude.
"Where we differ is that somewhere along the line you got lost," Mario said. "Now you're nothing more than a murderer with no one to blame but yourself."
Autopsy reports indicate Vitale, a former high tech executive, suffered 26 head wounds, broken fingers and dislodged teeth. Her body was bruised and battered. She suffered a gaping knife wound to her abdomen, exposing her intestines.
A symbol that resembled signature marks on the teen's artwork was carved onto her back.
"The symbol carved into her back by you showed you were proud of your work," the judge said Tuesday.
Before he left the crime scene, Dyleski took a sip from Vitale's water bottle and washed his knife in the bathtub, leaving behind bloody smears.
A black face mask, gloves, shirt and trench coat which were later found in Dyleski's duffel bag were stained with a mixture of his and Vitale's blood. The teen also left his shoe print at the crime scene, and evidence of his DNA was found on Vitale's foot.
Daniel Horowitz came home that evening from working on a case to find his wife's body bloodied and curled up in a fetal position by the door.
Horowitz: A 'party of blood'
"What I thought and what I felt when I walked in that house was almost a party of blood," Horowitz said Tuesday in his statement.
"He beat her again and again and took pleasure in it," Horowitz said, asking the judge to show the same lack of mercy to the boy who showed his wife no mercy or humanity.
According to witnesses at his trial, Dyleski was a gentle vegan kid who also had a fascination with Goth music and serial killers.
"There is more to this kid than the worst thing he's ever done," Dyleski's attorney Leonida said in his defense.
Lyn Dyleski spoke on behalf of her former stepson and described him as a child who was the victim of bad fathering, accusing Ken Dyleski of never disciplining his son, emotionally abandoning him and allowing him to subsist on a diet of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets and Trix cereal.
She described Dyleski's broken home, including his parents' separation when he was 3, his sister's death in a car accident, and the years he and his mother, Esther Fielding, spent sleeping under a lean-to on a friend's property.
Fielding and Ken Dyleski sat in the front row of the courtroom Tuesday but did not make a statement and declined to comment afterward.
Two adults who knew Scott Dyleski through their children, and a classmate with a purple streak in her hair said it was inconceivable to them that he had committed such a horrific act.
Letters from friends
The judge said she took into account letters from Dyleski's friends and relatives, who focused on his age, his intelligence, and his artistic qualities, as well as newspaper editorials critical of sending the boy to life in prison without parole.
Those individuals were not privy to the facts of the case that unfolded in court, the judge said.
"I can understand why people are struggling to understand what it was that caused you to do it. Why they're trying to focus on your age and insecurity," Zuniga said.
"They blame your mother. They blame your father. They blame your lifestyle," the judge said. "People do not want to understand and to accept that someone who looks like you, who is the young man living next door, could be so evil."
"People have also commented on your lack of affect," the judge told Dyleski.
She said she recalled catching him expressing emotion once in court when autopsy photos were shown as a pathologist described Vitale's wounds.
"I saw you, sir, lean forward and your mouth fell open," the judge said. "You were absolutely fascinated by your handiwork."