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Wife of Defense Lawyer Found Slain

Police have no suspects and there is no clear motive in the killing of Pamela Vitale, spouse of attorney and TV legal expert Daniel Horowitz.

October 17, 2005|Lee Romney | Times Staff Writer

LAFAYETTE, Calif. — Investigators scoured the Bay Area home of defense attorney and TV legal analyst Daniel Horowitz for clues Sunday after Horowitz's wife was found dead in the entryway of the couple's home, authorities said.

Horowitz called 911 Saturday evening to report he had found the body of his wife, 52-year-old Pamela Vitale, in a trailer on their isolated hillside property in this upscale community about 20 miles east of San Francisco, police said. The couple was living there while they built their dream home.

Contra Costa County authorities confirmed her identity Sunday morning and were investigating her death as a homicide, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Jimmy Lee. An autopsy was planned for today.

"It's too early to address how she died," Lee said Sunday. He described the property as "very, very remote," high on a hillside above a one-lane road. "If you don't live in the area, you don't go up there."

Lee said the department had talked to a number of people overnight, but officials were "still trying to develop suspects."

He declined to speculate on any connections with Horowitz's criminal law work, which includes a current high-profile trial of a woman charged with stabbing her husband to death.

"I've heard rumors, conspiracy theory, speculation -- I just can't respond to it," Lee said.

About 20 officers and investigators from the Lafayette Police Department and the Sheriff's Department were investigating the scene Sunday morning.

"They're continuing a search of the home and the surrounding areas to see if they can find any additional evidence or clues," Lee said.

Horowitz practices criminal defense in state and federal courts with an emphasis on white-collar crime, drug-conspiracy and death-penalty cases.

He maintains several websites, where he describes some of his own victories as "legendary." He worked as a freelance legal analyst in the Scott Peterson trial and has appeared frequently on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

A profile written in 2003 and posted on one of Horowitz's websites describes Vitale as his second wife. Horowitz helped raise her two children from a previous marriage. Vitale, a high-tech marketing executive, had joined Horowitz's downtown Oakland law practice several years ago, creating and managing databases.

Horowitz could not be reached Sunday. On Saturday he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I can't talk.... It's beyond words."

Horowitz is defending Susan Polk, accused of murder in the 2002 stabbing death of her therapist husband in the pool house of their Orinda home, a trial that has gained national attention.

Susan Polk first met the man who would become her husband when she started seeing him as a therapist as a teenager. She has said she killed him in selfdefense, but prosecutors allege she killed him for his multimillion-dollar estate.

It was unclear whether the death of Horowitz's wife would affect the trial, which began last week and had been scheduled to continue this week.

Horowitz also represented Steve Williams, the man who snagged Barry Bonds' 700th home-run ball, in a lawsuit to determine who would keep the ball. He also represented former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko in a money-laundering and fraud trial.

Times staff writer Jia-Rui Chong contributed to this report.

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