by Kathryn Joanne Dixon

One thing about Karen Schneider, resident of 2001 Hunsaker Canyon Road, Lafayette, California, for 17 years – she is a good citizen who reports a crime immediately and diligently.

On October 14, 2005, Schneider discovered while looking at her bank account online, that one of three charges in the amount of $683 for three separate items purchased from Specialty Lighting (to buy potential marijuana growing equipment) was charged to her by her bank account.  The equipment was to be shipped to Esther Dyleski at 1050 Hunsaker Canyon Road and to be billed to Karen Schneider at the address of Pamela Vitale and Daniel Horowitz.  She researched her online account, googled addresses, called the bank to cancel the transactions and called and emailed Specialty Lighting. She obtained information that this charge involving Vitale/Horowitz's address and phone number and two other charges for $683 were fraudulent.  She reported what she had discovered to the Lafayette Police.  At 4:00 p.m., after her job as assistant principal at the middle school ended, she took all the paperwork she had gathered to the police. station.

What did the Lafayette Police do with Mrs. Schneider's detailed solid report?  They sat on it.  They sat on it until after Pamela Vitale was murdered in her home the next day, October 15, 2005..  To make matters worse Lafayette Police did not act until Wednesday evening,  when, for the first time, they tried to interview the persons living at the home of Fred and Kim Curiel including Esther Fielding, Scott Dyleski, Hazel McClure and Michael Sekkima.  With guns drawn, and no search warrant, Lafayette police and Contra Costa Sheriff deputies, en masse, invaded the home.  They pushed the residents to the ground at gunpoint and tried to “freeze the scene” until a search warrant was obtained.  Scott Dyleski was not on the premises.  The home invaders interviewed members of the household at 2:00 a.m. in the morning terrorizing the family members, four days after Karen Schneider made her police report and provided supporting documentation.  Why did law enforcement delay looking into the matter that had been reported to them by a responsible neighbor when they knew a vicious murder had occurred the day following the report?

Residents of the Hunsaker Canyon Road area, at Schneider's and Krekorian's insistence, even called a Road Association meeting on Sunday, October 16, 2006 to discuss issues such as who killed Pamela Vitale , and Karen Schneider’s paper work involving this credit card fraud. 

After the Sunday meeting when Karen Schneider provided her credit card fraud paper work to Fred and Kim Curiel and Esther Dyleski and confronted them, through Wednesday late evening, October 19, 2005, the Lafayette Police and Contra Costa County Sheriffs let Kim and Fred Curiel, Esther Fielding and her son Scott Dyleski and the Sekkima couple to do as they pleased.  The Curiels made good use of this time.

For approximately four days Fred and Kim Curiel conducted their own investigation essentially replacing the police as the neutral investigators.  The couple established quite an evidence trail including searches of computers and computer data online.  They talked in depth with Esther Fielding about her son's potential culpability in the credit card fraud and possibly the murder.  They also had a series of conversations with Scott Dyleski, now on trial for the murder of Pamela Vitale.

On August 9, 2006 in the Contra Costa Superior Court in Martinez, California, the ineptness of the Lafayette Police and Contra Costa Sheriff  to conduct timely investigations played out in court.  It was a scene filled with pathos!  The amateur sleuths, Fred and Kim Curiel testified that they contaminated the investigation of the case.  The fact remains that law enforcement should have conducted the investigation in a professional manner.

However, deputy DA Harold Jewett is perhaps in deep denial about this. He is probing the Curiels' testimony about their amateur investigation and what others, such as Esther Dyleski recall about it.  Jewett is attempting to make it a part of the circumstantial evidence that he asserts a jury should use to convict Scott Dyleski of the murder of Pamela Vitale. 

First of all, if anyone really looks at the time-line, the Vitale family has the Lafayette Police and Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department is to blame for the death of Pamela Vitale because these public servants did not go to the Curiel home on October 14, 2006, after Karen Schneider presented a clear cut case for a felony credit card.  Law enforcement should have responded promptly and asked the simple question:   Who in your household made these charges to Pamela Vitale’s address using Karen Schneider’s account? 

On Tuesday, August 8, 2006 Kimberly Marie Curiel, wife of Fred and mother of three daughters took the stand. She testified as to a time-line on Saturday morning, the alleged time of Pamela Vitale’s death. Click to read about this testimony.

Kim Curiel described her conversations with Scott Dyleski?

She said that on Saturday morning she saw him enter the Curiel residence at 10:45 a.m.  “He walked in with an exaggerated large steps with a bounce in between.  He had a large smile and said loudly 1I had the most beautiful walk this morning.'  He had scratches on his nose, with a drop of fresh blood on it.'" 

“I asked,” You’re bleeding?

“I am, he replied.

"On your nose and it’s going to drop."

He reached for his nose, Kim Curiel aid and wiped the blood off.

“Oh boy, the bush really got me.” Dyleski said, “I fell when coming down the hill and whacked the bushes."

Kim testified she asked, “Where did you go?"

"I tried to find the waterfall.  I walked up the hill behind the bar looking for the waterfall you guys shad talked about.”

Kim said she had talked about a waterfall with Dyleski earlier in the year.

Kim testified she asked, "Is there a waterfall?  Not in October.  Only in the spring.  Water has to sink in some time.  There’s not water up there.

Dyleski said, “Yes, I found that out.”

Kim testified there was blood on Dyleski’s nose and cheek.  “Thin lines not very deep, three of four scratches.  It was plausible he was hit by a bush, she said.

Kim put triple antibiotic cream on Dyleski’s nose.

Dyleski sat down with her on the couch and put his arm around her in an affectionate way.

Kim asked him if he wanted to go to the Spirit store with her and the family and he said "No".

Kim said, "I can’t really talk to you much because I have to grade school papers." He left, and she graded one more paper or maybe more.

Then Kim Curiel, Fred and their three daughters drove to the Spirit store in Concord.

On August 9, 2006, Fred Curiel testified that he did not see Dyleski on Saturday morning at all.  This was a complete reversal of his earlier testimony.  He testified that he decided on August 8, 2006 when visiting District Attorney Harold Jewett pursuant to a subpoena to testify that he told Jewett he did not recall seeing Dyleski on Saturday morning at all.  Then Jewett elicited this testimony in court from Fred Curiel the next day.  It didn’t bother Jewett at all that Fred Curiel had told the investigators on video tape and in person on October 20, 2005, after the "non-search warrant" invasion of his home, that he checked his pager at 9:26 a.m. while he observed his wife sitting on a couch with Dyleski.

Defense attorney Ellen Leonida got Fred Curiel to admit in at least eight instances that he had made statements during the preliminary hearing in February that were totally consistent with his statement that he checked his pager at 9:26 a.m. the Saturday morning that Pamela Vitale was murdered.  Fred Curiel stated that he had checked his pager while he observed his wife sitting on the couch with Dyleski in their home that morning.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Hal Jewett established that Pamela Vitale stopped working on her computer at 10:12 a.m.  Testimony from a computer expert reinforced this time-line.

It was estimated that it takes 20 minutes for a strong man to walk up or walk down the steep rugged hill from the Curiel residence to the Vitale/Horowitz trailer.

Fred Curiel had waited until one day before his testimony before the jury in this murder trial  to totally change the iron-clad alibi the defense had relied on to establish that Scott Dyleski was home at the time of the murder.  The question is, why did prosecutor Jewett, seeing Curiel's 180 degree reversal continue to try to sell Fred Curiel as a reliable witness to the jury trying Scott Dyleski?  Which testimony of Fred Curiel's is this jury to believe?  Or will this jury believe that Fred Curiel reversed his testimony because the prosecution put pressure on him.

Is Jewett presenting Fred Curiel's lies to the jury now?  Or did Jewett present his lies at the preliminary hearing?  Which is it?  Fred Curiel offered no explanation for his total reversal in his testimony.  Will he face a perjury charge?  Will the lie ever be disowned? Or is it embraced?

After the October 16th Road Association meeting, the Curiels took copies of Karen Schneider’s paperwork showing the credit card scam and went home.  Fred Curiel gathered all the computers in the household and searched their data banks.  Fred Curiel is a expert computer consultant for Kaiser Permanente – an expert. Kim Curiel, Esther Fielding and Scott Dyleski were in the household while Fred did his examined the computers on Sunday evening. 

Kim Curiel testified that Fred announced to Dyleski and Esther on Sunday, “We’ve been charged with computer fraud by neighbors and we have to see if it occurred on our computers.”

It did not occur to Fred and the other family members to turn all the computers over to the police.  No one knew if the police were even thinking about these computers almost two days after Pamela Vitale’s murder?  Fred continued with his investigation.  He testified he first confirmed that the external IP address was his, and confirmed that the fraud was committed from his house.  Next he inspected the junction boxes to check for tampering and he found none.  Finally, he inspected the computers in his own home.  At first, h e found that there was no fraud committed via Dyleski’s computer on Wednesday, the date Karen Schneider said the fraudulent charges were placed.  Then he realized that Specialty Lighting was located on the east coast, so it may have registered transactions on Thursday.  Fred Curiel checked Dyleski’s cache of transactions initiated Thursday and found evidence of the transactions even though Dyleski had assumed that he had deleted the records from his computer.

Did the police also do this computer work?  Has law enforcement ever repeated Fred Curiel's investigation to check its accuracy?

Prosecutor Hal Jewett had called on independent expert to verify that credit card fraud actually occurred and, if it did, who initiated the fraud and what addresses were used for billing and delivery to facilitate the fraud.  So the questions that remain unanswered are: (1) Who actually committed this fraud? and (2) Who directed the fraudulent activities?  The record the prosecutor has established so far is that Karen Schneider's investigation was correct.  The jury must also assume that the testimony given by the manager for Specialty Lighting about the fraud and about the manager's conversation with a young male before the murder was correct

No expert has been called by Jewett to verify that fraud actually occurred and by whom and by using what addresses, namely Pamela Vitale’s as an address for Karen Schneider’s account and what ship-to address was used—namely Esther Fielding’s at the Fred and Kim Curiel address?

The role of Kim and Fred Curiel in the investigation of computer fraud expanded after Fred Curiel checked the computers.

On October 16, Sunday, Fred Curiel in the presence of his wife and Esther Fielding, confronted Scott Dyleski.  Fred Curiel testified that he asked Dyleski if he had committed credit card fraud on the prior Thursday involving orders from Specialty Lighting as Karen Schneider reported.  Scott Dyleksi denied he even worked at his computer that day saying that he was with his girlfriend Jenna Reddy. This statement was confirmed by Jenna Reddy's father to Fred Curiel on Monday, October 18, 2005. 

Fred Curiel also testified that on Tuesday, October 19, 2005 he spoke to Dyleski shortly before noon in the master bedroom.  This investigative conference lasted more than one hours.  Present were the Curiels, Esther Fielding and her son, Scott Dyleski.

Fred Curiel testified Dyleski said, “You’re not going to believe what I say, so just tell them I did it.  That’s what you want, isn’t it?"

Fred Curiel responded. "No. That's not the truth.  That's not what we want.  The longer our investigation is dragged on the more likely that the credit care issue will get involved with the murder investigation.  It’s up to us to get to the truth before we go to the police."

At that point, for the first time, Fred Curiel linked the credit card fraud to the murder of Pamela Vitale.  Yet the only thing connecting the credit card scam to the Vitale murder is that Vitale's address and telephone number is under the name of Karen Schneider whose account was originally charged for the lighting ordered through Specialty Lighting.  The evidence offered as proof relies on the amazing detective work ay alert citizen Karen Schneider.  Than Fred Curiel provided the final link from the fraud to the murder of his neighbor Pamela Vitale.

Fred Curiel recounted that he said to Dyleski, "Can you see how this can be misconstrued as related to the murder?"  And Scott Dyleski said, "Yes, yes, yes, yes and started to pace nervously."

Fred Curiel said, “Relax. You have nothing to worry about."

Dyleski said, "What do you mean?"

Fred said,  “If there was a struggle as Dan (Horowitz) said, it is virtually guaranteed there will be DNA.  There will be DNA under her (Pamela Vitale’s) fingernails and there will be fingerprints."

Fred Curiel stated that Dyleski did not respond to his comments.'

What role did Esther Fielding play during this interrogation by the Curiels as it was suggested for the first time that her son might be involved in the Vitale murder and that DNA would be a factor in any investigation?  Apparently Esther Fielding will be required to testify about this conversation and her role, if any, in it.

The other major party present during the interrogation in the master bedroom on October 18,, 2995 was Kim Curiel.  Fred Curiel's testimony revealed that Kim  Curiel asked questions to "reconstruct" the events of that fateful Saturday morning.  Kim questioned Scott Dyleski about what he did that morning.

Scott responded to Kim's questions by saying,  "I took a walk to see the waterfall."  Kim asked, if he saw anyone pass by.  At first Dyleski said he did not recall.  Kim asked if he saw any cars.

Dyleski initially did not recall this, but he then responded that he saw a white car.  He said he spoke to a woman in the white car, that she pulled over and asked as question.  She said something weird and reached out of the window of the car and grabbed his arm.

Fred Curiel asked, “Grabbed your arm?" Dyleski answered "Yes", and rolled his sleeve back to show some marks on his arm.  Fred Curiel testified he did not see the marks, although his wife Kim testified there were about four small marks that looked like fingernail marks.

Dyleski further said, “She said something weird, something like ‘You gotta believe” or something like that.”

Kim asked what direction was the car was going.  Dyleski said, “Up the hill”.

Fred asked which side of the road the white car was driving on.

Dyleski said “Same side as our house." (1050 Hunsaker Canyon Rd).

Fred testified that Dyleski identified the woman who grabbed his arm as average height.

Fred said the tone of his own voice conveyed to Dyleski that he was not finding his story credible at this point.

Fred testified that Dyleski had already said the car was going up the hill and was on the same side of the road as “our house”, therefore the woman would have had to reach from the driver’s seat across the passenger seat and outside of the window -- a very long reach.  The implication of Fred Curiels’ testimony was that this was impossible, if she was of average height. Dyleski said, "I know it sounds strange but that is what happened.

Kim asked “Were you going to or coming back from the water fall?"  Dyleski's answer was unclear or changed.  He said he was going up the hill; then he said down the hill. 

Fred Curiel testified that Kim asked Dyleski to further describe the woman.  Dyleski described her as average height, middle age – "your age (referring to Fred, Kim and Esther. Fred was 46.) with brown hair and round glasses."  Fred Curiel testified when Dyleski said “round” glasses, his wife looked at him, and Fred had the "immediate recognition" that Kim knew that it was Pamela Vitale.

Fred testified he knew that there was no way Pamela Vitale was driving on the road early Saturday morning because she was found dead in her panties and t-shirt.  Therefore there was no way she was out and about in that attire.

Dyleski did not respond further to the Curiels' questions.

The, Fred Curiel testified he was frustrated, and felt that the matter of the credit card fraud was now turning  into a murder investigation.

Then, according to Fred Curiel's testimony, Dyleski asked, “What if my DNA is there? Fred said he was “stunned".  He did not respond. He silently asked himself if Dyleski said what he thought he had said.  He focused, not on the questioning, but rather, on the implication of what Dyleski had just said.

With Fred Curiel falling silent, Kim Curiel took up the interrogator's role. 

Kim asked what clothes Dyleski wore Saturday morning while on his walk.  Dyleski in an erect posture, pointed upwards, as though at attention, and said, “They’re upstairs. You can have them.  They still haven’t been washed."

Fred Curiel said Dyleski sounded suddenly upbeat, positive when he said this, whereas, before he was worried.  Because of his positive tone, Fred Curiel was convinced there was “nothing on the clothes.”

Kim asked Dyleski if he knew or recognized the neighbors Karen Schneider and Pamela Vitale?

Dyleski, responding in a low key manner, said he did not know them or what they looked like.

Fred Curiel testified he then went to his Linux computer, and googled Vitale’s name, trying to find a photo of her, perhaps a California driver’s card.  But he could not locate one.

Then Dyleski asked Fred Curiel again, “What if my DNA is there?"

Fred Curiel replied. “Don’t worry.  If you were not there, your DNA is not there.

Dyleski asked again, "What if it is there?"

Fred Curiel said, “That means you were there and you’re going to do time."

After that conference on Tuesday, Fred Curiel saw Dyleski later on Tuesday evening and said to him, “Don’t worry. It can’t get any worse than this.”  According to Fred Curiel, Dyleski did not respond to this statement, and nothing else was said.

Fred Curiel testified that he saw Scott on Wednesday evening at about 8:00 p.m. because he asked Scott Dyleski for help in moving a large cart on his property and Scott helped him.  According to Fred Curiel, they did not talk about anything other than moving the cart. Late Wednesday night, law enforcement officials invaded the Curiel residence and searched the premises.  The next time, Fred Curiel saw Dyleski was in the courtroom of Judge Barbara Zuniga when he testified before the jury on October 8, 2006.

What did Esther Curiel say during this lengthy interrogation conference on Tuesday, which according to the Curiels went on for over an hour?  Did Esther hear all of it?  Is the testimony of Fred Curiel and that of his wife, in fact true?

The police, sheriff and DA sat on the report by Karen Schneider from October 14 through the late evening of October 20, when they searched the Curiel residence.  In the meantime, they "de facto" turned over the investigation to Fred and Kim Curiel who investigated, accumulated and interrogated, at times, in the presence of Esther Fielding and Scott Dyleski.  The Curiels became the cops.  The Curiel’s led the investigation.  They perhaps gave suggestions to the mixed-up 16-year-old boy who was extremely emotionally upset at that time.

Is this the way Contra Costa County conducts a murder investigation?  Now Esther Fielding is testifying in her second day on the witness stand.  It is almost certain that what she said, or didn’t say during the conversations she and her son had with the Curiels will be used to test her credibility, memory and the quality of her testimony. 

Prosecutor Hal Jewett is allowed this opportunity because Esther Fielding and Scott Dyleski were not first interrogated by the police.  Instead they were placed in the position of having the Curiels interrogate them, only to find that what she and her son said to the Curiels would be tested in front of the jury by  DDA Hal Jewett as though the Curiels were engaged in an investigation which produced circumstantial evidence.

Some people would call this procedure of letting amateurs run an investigation, a method of intentionally mucking it up.  It creates a trail of statements that were not properly recorded properly or professionally elicited by law enforcement. The motive behind introducing such shoddy, sloppy in such shoddy sloppy investigatory work could well be a cover up for what might have really happened that Saturday morning in the Horowitz trailer.

So who was the man driving the car in which Pamela Vitale was the passenger when Scott Dyleski ran into them on Saturday morning? Dyleski’s girlfriend Jenna Reddy testified to this fact twice.  Yet there was no investigation into this matter evidenced by Jewett’s questioning witnesses in the courtroom .  Instead Jenna Reddy's testimony was treated as not important, irrelevant or non-existent. Reddy said Dyleski told her that Vitale was frightened in the car that Saturday morning. 

Doesn’t Pamela Vitale deserve the best murder investigation and trial possible? 

If there are any unanswered questions such as who contributed the unidentified DNA testified to by the prosecution's expert witness, it would explain why Prosecutor Hal Jewett told Judge Barbara Zuniga that the grand jury transcript could not be released because the investigation was on going. 

If the possibility exists that Scott Dyleski actually saw a woman answering Pamela Vitale's description in a car driven by an unidentified man close to the bottom of Hunsaker Canyon Road, then a kidnaper or a killer could still be free. 

The prosecutions own computer expert stated that there was no further activity on Pamela Vitale's computer after 10:12 a.m.   The prosecution's own witnesses testified that it would take a strong man or boy approximately 20 minutes to walk up and/or down the road from the Curiel residence to the Horowitz/Vitale residence.   Kim Curiel placed Scott Dyleski's return to the Curiel home at 10:45 a.m.   That leaves only 13 minutes for Scott Dyleski to inflict almost thirty brutal wounds to Pamela's head and upper body.  Additionally time would have to be allotted for the stabbing to the front of her body and the design Hal Jewett paid particular attention scratched on her back.  It must also be recalled that initially leaks from the prosecution's office implied that the killer took their time taking a shower and drinking from a cup in the kitchen.  How long does it take to inflict each deadly blow when the victim in fighting back as hard as Pamela Vitale fought for her life? 

If Scott Dyleski did kill, was he the only killer or does Daniel Horowitz still have to watch out for a killer on the loose.    

Doesn't Pamela Vitale deserve the best murder investigation and murder trial possible? 

Kathryn Joanne Dixon © August 9, 2006