BOMBSHELLS AT DYLESKI TRIAL ON DAY 4 – WHO IS
THE MAN IN THE CAR?
by Kathryn Joanne Dixon
The fourth day of the Dyleski trial was a day of bombshells that could make or break the case against Scott Dyleski on trial in Martinez, California for the murder of Pamela Vitale.
On Thursday August 3, 2006, the trial opened with Judge Barbara Zuniga questioning a juror in closed chambers with counsel present for an hour and fifteen minutes. Seated in the courtroom, Dyleski listened in using a set of earphones wired to chambers. No juror was dismissed as a result of the conference. In the afternoon the reason for the conference was explained when the judge informed the jurors and the audience that someone had handed out leaflets the day before around the courthouse. The jurors were instructed that they were not to accept any handouts, and if they did inadvertently, they were to refrain from reading them. Instead they were to hand them to a court deputy or the judge. Questions remained: Did the juror read a leaflet? If so, did it influence the juror? It was a case of deja vu because during the Susan Polk murder trial, a man associated with Peter Tscherneff, a Petaluma activist against Satanism and child abuse, had handed out leaflets around the courthouse.
At 10:15 a.m. Deputy DA Harold Jewett recalled his immunized witness Robin Croen, who had been Dyleski’s friend and associate in their potential pot-growing business. Jewett had Croen write the following words on a slip of paper:
Keep captive to confirm PINs
Dispose of evidence
Cut up and bury
These words were the same as those written on a paper found in a dresser drawer in the room Dyleski had vacated at the Curiel’s home. The paper was found months after the murder on January 28, 2006 by David Curiel, Fred Curiel's brother. Jewett wants to prove Dyleski, in fact, voluntarily wrote those words on that paper. From the stand, Robin Croen denied that he ever said or wrote the words he copied for Prosecutor Hal Jewett.
Jewett then asked Robin Croen if Dyleski used any symbol on his writings or art work to identify himself. Robin Croen answered that he only knew the general shape of such a symbol, not the precise one. At Jewett’s request he drew what he recalled the symbol to look like. It was one central vertical line, with one horizontal line crossing it one third of the way up, then another horizontal line above that one. This horizontal line had a vertical line at each end of that line pointing upwards. At the top of the central vertical line was a complete circle.
This drawing was important because on the back of deceased Pamela Vitale, the killer had drawn, most likely with a knife, a vertical line with two horizontal crossing lines. This etching is similar to that found in the Cross of Lorraine – used by President De Gaulle during the French resistance and during his term as President of France. This symbol was inherited from the Knights Templar. Jewett is intent on proving that the symbol on the deceased’s back was in fact, Dyleski’s “calling card” or personal symbol. However, the drawing by Robin Croen was distinctively different from that found on the deceased.
Robin Croen testified that about one month before the murder he and Dyleski were talking about the money, equipment and merchandise necessary to grow marijuana.
Croen testified that on Saturday night, Dyleski and his girlfriend met with Robin Croen and their friend Oscar. Robin Croen gave Dyleski marijuana. Oscar asked Dyleski about female serial killers, including Lizzie Borden who had been accused, but found innocent, of killing her father and step mother. Oscar also discussed a book dealing with the psychology of murder. Oscar asked Dyleski about mass murderers. However, Croen could not recall what specific answers Dyleski gave.
Robin Croen also testified that on Tuesday, following the murder which took place on Saturday, Dyleski’s girlfriend drove him to Acalanes high school to meet with Croen. Croen testified the Dyleski said he intended to admit to their credit card scheme because he was worried it could connect him to the killing of Pamela Vitale. Dyleski said there was “this woman” and he was “concerned about DNA on the body.” Dyleski did not give the name of the woman. But Dyleski said everything would be fine because he had an alibi. Dyleski said he had been with people all day, people saw him in the house taking a shower, and people at his home saw him when he came home. Croen didn’t recall Dyleski stating the time he came home or when he took a shower, or when he said people saw him come home, but Dyleski talked about these items in the context of “he had an alibi”.
On cross-examination, public defender Leonida, elicited from Croen that it could have been Oscar who asked about whether Lizzie Borden was a serial killer, and that Dyleski merely affirmed it was Lizzie Borden as an answer to the question. Croen also admitted his drawing was a poor reflection of any symbol Dyleski drew.
Next, Jewett called Thomas Croen, the father of Robin. He testified he lived in Walnut Creek for nine years with his wife, Lisa, his daughter and his son Robin. He is a violin maker. His wife is a doctor at Kaiser, Oakland. On Sunday, October 16, 2005, Thomas Croen said Fred Curiel contacted him by telephone and wanted to see him immediately to determine if Robin’s computer contained a credit card order that had been placed. Thomas Croen consented. T hen he opened his son’s computer and found the internet history which showed his son had visited some websites regarding hydroponics. He found emails between Robin and Dyleski.
Within fifteen minutes, Fred and Kim Curiel arrived at his home. Fred sat next to Thomas Croen as he operated the computer. They viewed the website history and emails. Fred had a brief outburst – a sob – and then said he was concerned there was a connection between the killing of Pamela Vitale and what the boys were doing. At that point Thomas Croen knew about the killing, but knew of no "connection”. He testified when Curiel sobbed, “I felt this was a level of trouble I had not gone into before”. He turned the computer off. Fred and Kim left. He moved the computer into his workshop to secure it and went to get Robin who was working at an after-school job until 4:00 p.m. Thomas Croen confronted his son and demanded the complete truth. His son told him what he knew. Thomas Croen then obtained an attorney for his son. At some point he and his lawyer met with the District Attorney at the Sheriff’s office. He learned from his own attorney that immunity had been granted to his son in exchange for his testimony at trial.
Finally, Deputy DA Jewett presented the remains of a vaporizer to Thomas Croen for identification. He identified it, stating ruefully that he had been so angry that night he smashed it to bits with a hammer.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Leonida obtained testimony that Robin Croen and Dyleski had been friends for four or five years. Thomas Croen testified he had never seen Dyleski be violent, or threaten violence and he was friendly, not a recluse. He had nice rapport with Dyleski. Dyleski had used make up and eyeliner for some time, but stopped when he finished high school. He even had shorter hair, and did not dye it in September and October of 2005. Thomas Croen talked to Dyleski about school and Dyleski was excited about his studies, saying he wanted to get into a program in Berkeley where he could obtain technical training in sound and audio.
Jewett, apparently displeased with Thomas Croen’s testimony about Dyleski’s relative normalcy, other than the credit card scheme, jumped into a re-cross examination. He asked if Dyleski was taking a psychology course. Thomas Croen wasn’t sure. He asked if he had seen drawings of Dyleski’s that depicted a person dressed in black, carrying a knife with blood dripping from the blade. Croen said he was unsure if he had seen it. He had seen some artwork of Dyleski’s on the walls of his son’s room, one of which was a type of cartoon in pencil of a person with a “silly face”. He affirmed to Jewett that in the summer of 2005 , after he got his GED , Dyleski did not have a painted face and his hair was shorter and not dyed. At this time he “blended in with the way other people were dressing.”
This was the first bombshell of the day, a small one. The father of a friend of Dyleski’s testified Dyleski was an average kid, and that he gave up his Goth type dress in the summer of 2005. "We had a good rapport," the father said of Dyleski. Jewett wants to establish that Dyleski’s Goth dress and some of Dyleski’s behaviors were so aberrant through the summer of 2005 until the time of the murder on October 15, that they evidenced the mental state of a brutally depraved murderer.
Next, the deputy district attorney called Karen Schneider to the stand. She testified she is an assistant principal of a middle school and has lived at 2001 Hunsicker Canyon Road for seventeen years with her husband and three daughters, ages 20, 22 and 30. She pointed out her residence on a large terrain map that Hal Jewett unrolled. She testified she was friendly with Fred and Kim Curiel but before October 2005, did not know Scott Dyleski. Abruptly Schneider’s pleasant demeanor turned grim. Jewett asked about an accident. She testified that at the end of September, she was driving to school to supervise a dance for pupils. On the road near her home, she saw five people and two dogs walking in the center of the road. The group split up so she could pass by. There was a car approaching her at the time. She was driving very slowly. To her great surprise she ran over one of the dogs. “I stopped the car, put on the emergency brake and got out." There was an old, apparently blind and deaf, dog caught under her car. One little girl, a Curiel child, screamed and ran to her house to get Esther Fielding, Scott Dyleski’s mother. The other people did not appear as concerned about the dog. It was not on a leash. Esther came running toward the dog. She did a “magic thing with her hands over the dog, palms down over the dog. "No chanting. I can’t recall what she said.” Then, Esther announced she needed to get the dog to a veterinary hospital. The dog was removed from under the car and Schneider left. Esther did not complain that Schneider was leaving.
The next day, Schneider went to see Esther Fielding at the Curiel's home where she lived. Kim Curiel was there. She said she was relieved the dog would be okay and Schneider responded, “If it were my dog, I would put it down.” They did not discuss any payments for injury to the dog. Schneider apologized to Kim for running over the dog.
Schneider testified that about two weeks later, on October 13, 2005, Thursday, she looked at her Bank of America account online. She saw three charges for $683 each to “Specialty Lighting”. Schneider did not recognize the charges made, so she called her bank and told them to stop processing the charges. They agreed, and gave her the vendors name, city, and contact number. Schneider looked up Specialty Lighting on the Internet and got the email address. On Thursday night she emailed Jackie Jahoski the owner of Specialty Lighting and told her the charges were fraudulent. The next day at work, Ms. Jahoski called her, then emailed and faxed her copies of the paperwork for the order. The order listed Esther Fielding’s home as the “ship to” address and listed the billing address as 1901 Hunsicker Canyon Road, where Vitale and Horowitz lived. The purchase was billed to Schneider’s credit card. Schneider was aghast that $2,300 had been charged to her for Esther Fielding’s benefit. She assumed Esther Fielding was attempting to obtain some payment for the injuries to her dog.
Schneider called the police and made a report. She felt upset and fearful and called her nephew to stay with her at home, because her husband was working in Southern California. She took the papers to the police at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 14. On Saturday she went to King City to see her husband, a date they had arranged some time before. On Saturday at about 11:00 pm. one of her daughters called her and told her that Pamela Vitale had been murdered. At that time she had no information as to how Pamela Vitale was murdered.
On Sunday morning, Schneider went home. In the afternoon she called a meeting of her neighbors – a “road association meeting”. She discussed doing so first with her neighbors the Krekorians. “I knew the circumstances and everyone should know about the credit card. I wanted to alert others and see what they knew.”
The neighborhood meeting commenced at about 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. on Sunday at the Krekorian’s home. The Curiels, Esther Fielding, the Winslows, the Partridges, Wilsons, Bradleys and others attended. They speculated about who they thought had murdered Pamela Vitale. They speculated it was Joe Lynch who lived nearby or one of attorney Daniel Horowitz’s clients. When the meeting had almost ended, Schneider, accompanied by her husband, talked to Fred and Kim Curiel and Ester Fielding away from other guests. Leslie Krekorian had recommended that Schneider talk to them about the credit card. She wanted “everyone to be happy, get along." Immediately, Esther Fielding expressed her anger to Schneider, stating, “You won’t take responsibility for the dog.” Schneider said it was unleashed and not her fault and that she would pay for part of the expenses of the dog’s injury. She added, “You paid yourselves back and you guys are trying to kill me.” Esther Fielding responded, “What are you talking about? What do you mean?”
Schneider showed Esther the paperwork which indicated the $2300 charged to her charge card for items to be shipped to Esther Fielding’s address. Suddenly Esther Fielding became “nice.” Fred Curiel and Esther Fielding looked at the paper trying to figure out how Esther’s name got on it. They took a copy of the paperwork. The meeting ended.
Schneider’s husband stayed home on Sunday, and then left again on Monday. On Monday, fearing even more for her safety, Schneider had her nephew stay with her and on Tuesday night she stayed at the Krekorians. On Tuesday night, driving home after work she could see lights up the hill and 12 people dressed in jumpsuits with flashlights on their heads.
The second bombshell – Karen Schneider was really afraid after she discovered the credit card fraud, and had her nephew stay with her on Friday night, the day before the murder. Why was she physically afraid of a credit card scam, a day before the murder?
In the afternoon, Jewett called John Halpin to the stand. He testified he lives alone at 1701 Hunsicker Canyon since 1980. He is a retired shipper. He was in New York when Pamela Vitale was murdered, having left on September 16 and then returning on October 23, 2005. While in New York, on October 16, Sunday, Karen Schneider called him and alerted him to the credit card fraud. He checked his J.P. Morgan Financial Services account and found 2 charges to pay services, 1 to “Future Gardens” and 1 to “Vaporware”. The shipping addresses were Esther Fielding at 1050 Hunsicker Canyon Road and they were billed to Halpin at his own address. Halpin only “knew of Scott”, having met him at Curiel’s party celebrating the completion of their building their house. Many of Halpin’s bank accounts, brokerage accounts, user id numbers and pin numbers appear on a slip of paper, which has been linked to Dyleski.
On cross-examination, Leonida established that the mail boxes for homes on Hunsicker Canyon were located far from the houses. Halpin testified he rarely locked his doors. He admitted all his pin numbers included his middle name except one which was“111222”.
Finally, on Thursday afternoon, Deputy DA Jewett called Scott Dyleski's girlfriend, Jenna Reddy to the stand. She is 18-years-old. She is about 5’ 7” inches tall, trim with dark skin and dark dyes. Her brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She was dressed conservatively in dark blue slacks and a dark blue sweater pulled over a white shirt. Sitting in the front row while she testified was her lawyer Gloria Allred.
Jewett began his direct examination with background questions. Reddy testified she lived in Walnut Creek with her father for one year and then lived for one year with her mother in Lafayette. Her parents are divorced. She testified she got to know Dyleski when he was a freshman at Acalanes High school and she was a junior. She met Dyleski while she was working for Esther Fielding and Kim Curiel at their restaurant. She is one year older than Dyleski. They were “friends and hung out with a group of people.” They dated a couple months and then stopped dating. After they stopped dating they didn’t talk to each other much, but in the middle or end of the summer of 2005 they began to date again and they had a sexual relationship. Both she and Dyleski were attending Mount Diablo College.
As she testified, it became clear that Reddy was reluctant to hurt Dyleski. She seemed to still care about him, and she was slow to answer the district attorney.
Reddy testified that Dyleski did not like high school that much. He dressed in black almost all of the time. He often wore eyeliner, eye shadow and sometimes had black fingernails. He shaved some of his head. But toward the end of the summer of 2005, he looked different. He had his hair shorter.
In high school, Reddy and Dyleski talked about poetry, history, economics, and political issues. Despite Jewett’s pointed questions, Reddy would not state that Dyleski liked one particular period of history, the days of Jack the Ripper.
Jewett switched the subject to sex. At first she refused to describe herself and Dyleski as being sadomasochists. However when Jewett presented the grand jury transcript from the October 2005,she admitted she and Dyleski were sadomasochists in September and October 2005 experimenting with pain in sexual encounters. She testified “for me, it was the amount of pain one could withstand without being hurt.”
Reddy told Jewett that she and Dyleski had a sexual relationship and had experimented with pain during sex. She testified that she harmed herself and he harmed himself. She did not say they harmed each other, except for her scratching him on the night after the murder. Reddy said the two often tested their thresholds for pain.
"Did your threshold go up or down?" Jewett asked.
"It went up," she testified.
"Did you consider Scott to be a sadomasochist in September and October of last year?""Yes."
"Did the two of you experiment with pain?"
"Did your threshold of pain change with Scott? Did it go up or down?"
"It went up."
"You could withstand more pain as time went on?"
"Yes," she said.
Reddy admitted that she and Dyleski talked about torture, but they talked about it ”jokingly and hypothetically”. They talked about how to keep an annoying child quiet, by first talking to him, then yelling, and then on occasions beating him. But their talk was only “hypothetical”. "Did you talk about breaking children's necks?" Jewett asked. "At one point," Reddy answered.
Reddy testified that she and Dyleski talked about removing organs from the human body, the kidney in particular.
Reddy testified that in September and October 2005, on two occasions she drank absinthe.
Reddy testified she and Dyleski were present when the young Curiel girl came into her home screaming, “Jazz (the dog) is dead!” Reddy said Esther Fielding went out to see the dog. They stayed home. Reddy did not talk to Dyleski about Jazz, and Dyleski did not show any emotions about the dog.
On October 15, 2005, the day Pamela Vitale was murdered, Reddy was working at Sylvan Learning Center where she was a "materials manager". She worked from 8:45 am. to 12:00 at Sylvan and then called Dyleski. She picked him up at the Curiel’s home at 2:00 p.m. Dyleski did not drive and did not have a license. They drove to Trader Joe’s to get food for the weekend. She did not notice anything unusual about his behavior. She did notice he had scratches on his face, and possibly on his arm, and that his right hand and wrist and arm were swollen. She asked him what happened. He said he was taking a walk, and was hit by trees and bushes. They talked about their plans to go to Gilroy on Sunday for the Renaissance Faire. Dyleski bought her a costume skirt for the event. When she asked him how he paid for it, he said “he had his ways of obtaining money.” After shopping at Trader Joe’s they went to her mother’s house in the late afternoon and unpacked their food and belongings. On Saturday night, they went to Robin Croen's home to hang out with Robin and Oscar and to get marijuana from Robin. T hey watched movies. Robin gave Dyleski marijuana.
While at the Croen home, there was a cell phone call between Dyleski and Esther Fielding. Dyleski told Reddy that his mother said it was not a good idea to go home because there was police activity in the neighborhood and he would have to be questioned by police. According to Reddy, there was no discussion about what the police action concerned, just that it was an “incident in the neighborhood”. Then the conversation turned to murder. They speculated about what happened in the neighborhood. Dyleski said if something happened in the neighborhood it would be at Horowitz’s house because of his stature as an attorney. According to Reddy, prior to that conversation, Dyleski did not know it was Pamela Vitale who had been murdered.
Reddy testified that later that night, while with his friends, Dyleski said a rhyme about Lizzie Borden, which concerned a child hurting a parent by giving them 40 whacks. After a couple hours at Robin Croen’s house, Reddy and Dyleski returned to her mother’s house. They drank absinthe. They did not have sex that night. She denied engaging in any sadomasochistic activity that night, including scratches.
Jewett showed the witness a photography of Dyleski’s back. She testified, “I might have scratched his back.” Jewett confronted her with her prior grand jury testimony that she caused scratches on his back and torso. She then admitted this, and testified she did not cause scratches on his face.
On Sunday, Reddy and Dyleski went to the Renaissance Faire in Gilroy. He wore black pants, white shirt, and black shoes without laces. He gave her shoes and other things in a bag on Sunday evening, but she was not sure these were the shoes he wore at the Faire. They stayed at the Faire for five or six hours. According to Reddy, Dyleski seemed normal and had a good time.
Jewett showed Reddy a picture of a knife. She testified she last saw this knife when walking in the park at the end of the summer with Dyleski.
After the Faire, they drove to Curiel’s home. She took a nap. Reddy testified that when she woke, Dyleski was looking through his things in his room and walked in and out of his room several times. Dyleski told her they were accusing him of credit card fraud. He told her he didn’t do it. He was gathering: a back pack, papers, a bag of clothes, CD’s, books, probably shoes. Reddy testified she didn’t look into the red and black back pack. Dyleski asked her to hold on to these things. She took them. She then gave Dyleski a ride to Acalanes High School to meet Robin Croen.
Reddy testified that on Monday or Tuesday, Dyleski told her that on Saturday morning, during the walk, while coming home, he ran into a man and a lady in a car. The man, who was driving, stopped to talk. The lady passenger tried to grab his arm and caused the scratches. He said he feared that because the lady scratched him on his arms, his DNA would be under her fingernails." He gave a description of the lady. Reddy did not provide that description under intense questioning by Jewett, but Reddy said the description was not that the lady wore glasses and had long hair. According to Reddy, the woman was frightened.
It was the third and biggest bombshell of the day. If Jenna Reddy is to be believed, there was another person involved that morning before the murder – a man who was in the car apparently with Pamela Vitale, a man who stopped to talk to Dyleski. What was said? Who is he? Why would Reddy lie about hearing this? It is possible she had some type of immunity deal. She has probably been urged to tell the complete truth by her attorney Gloria Allred. Of course, there is always the possibility Dyleski lied to his girlfriend. But why? Can the DA expect the jury to cherry pick the testimony just the way he wants them to and expect them to ignore a bombshell like this?
Next Reddy testified that when she was with Dyleski at the Curiel’s home before they went to Acalanes High School, Dyleski said he found out Vitale was murdered. Reddy testified that Dyleski never admitted or denied killing Pamela Vitale. Although she drove him to visit Robin Croen at Acalanes High school, she was not present when Robin and Scott talked. After Scott had talked to Robin, she drove Dyleski back to Diablo Valley College to attend class. On the way, Dyleski discussed “weighing his options”. He said the “credit card fraud could somehow be connected to the murder.” He said “even if he didn’t do the credit card fraud" he would take the blame for it. Dyleski said, "If I go to jail for life, I will not involve you or Robin no matter if I did or did not do it."
At 4:30 p.m., the judge called a halt to the direct examination which will resume Monday, August 7,2006.
The jurors were dismissed and the judge heard arguments regarding discovery and a Brady rule issue.
Defense counsel Leonida alleged in her motion for a discovery sanction, that Jewett withheld a “receipt” that Fred Curiel obtained on Saturday morning, the day of the Vitale murder. This “receipt” is relevant to the time-line. Specifics of this matter were not provided in open court. Fred Curiel has testified that he was waiting for his wife to get ready to go on a shopping trip on Saturday morning. The receipt was apparently obtained during this shopping trip. Dyleski arrived home at 9:26 a.m. according to Fred Curiel. The District Attorney in his opening statement asserted that Pamela Vitale stopped using her computer on Saturday morning October 15, at 10:21 a.m. According to Fred and Kim Curiel, Dyleski was home at that time and later through the morning, until they went shopping, and left him behind. About 12:00 noon, Esther Fielding was with her son at home. At 2:00 p.m., his girlfriend picked him up. Leonida is arguing Dyleski has an alibi
It became clear during the arguments in court, that Leonida wants the judge to instruct the jury about Jewett's failure to provide this key receipt until just recently. Obtaining such a sanction for a discovery deception could bolster Dyleski's alibi defense. California law provides that both parties provide each other with discovery promptly. The Brady rule provides that a district attorney must provide the defense with potential exculpatory evidence.
Leonida stated she obtained the receipt in the past few weeks and immediately sent her investigator Mr. Stein to interview Fred Curiel about the matter. Jewett alleged Leonida’s investigator was trying to influence Fred Curiel’s testimony and that Stein did not provide a report of this interview. Leonida countered that the receipt should have been provided months ago and was improperly withheld. Jewett, in turn, blamed his investigator Peterson for not providing the receipt. Judge Zuniga interrupted, reminding him that he was responsible for his investigator. Jewett still maintained defense investigator Stein should appear at a hearing for interrogation on Monday afternoon. Leonida said her client had been “cheated” by not having this receipt and that she provided the investigator’s report to Jewett and he should not now have an opportunity to interrogate her investigator. The Judge interrupted again, saying, you mean “allegedly cheated.” The judge then asked Jewett why he wanted Mr. Stein to testify. Jewett said he needed to prove there was no prejudice should the judge decide to sanction him by giving an instruction to the jury about the DA’s office withholding the receipt. The Judge ordered that Stein merely be available on Monday and she would see how things progressed at the 2:00 p.m. hearing. Jewett said he would call his “out-of-state witnesses” in the morning.
This was the fourth bombshell of the day – the Contra Costa District Attorney withheld a receipt to manipulate a time-line which involves an alibi. [Author's note: On August 7, 2006, Jewett provided a receipt signed by the defense, showing Leonida had actually obtained Curiel's receipt from Jewett. Leonida then acknowledged she had made a mistake, and that she must have received the receipt in the past but overlooked it. She dropped her motion and apologized to the court. Jewett dropped his motion regarding the investigator influencing Fred Curiel.]
There was a brief interruption of arguments about discovery, when the Judge asked to go off the record. She asked Jewett why the grand jury testimony had not been unsealed. (Grand jury testimony is unsealed and made public 10 days after arraignment.) Jewett said it was an investigatory grand jury, thus the transcript could not be unsealed. The judge requested that she be given a copy of the grand jury testimony since he was referring to it during the trial. Jewett agreed.
This was the fifth and final bombshell of the day. If this grand jury is “investigatory”, and the transcript has not been unsealed, it appears that the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office still has a grand jury empanelled to hear testimony about the Dyleski case. Maybe Jewett is looking for the mysterious man who was driving the lady around in the car on the morning of Pamela Vitale's murder?
Kathryn Joanne Dixon © August 6, 2006