The investigation into the slaying of Lafayette resident Pamela Vitale took a startling turn Thursday when police arrested the mother of the 16-year-old neighbor charged in the killing and booked her on suspicion of being an accessory to murder.
Esther Marion Fielding, 53, of Lafayette was arrested on the same day her son, Scott Edgar Dyleski, was arraigned on a single count of murder in adult court in Martinez. Fielding was booked into Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez, where she was held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
It was not immediately clear what role Fielding is alleged to have played in connection with the slaying, in which Vitale — the wife of prominent East Bay attorney and television commentator Daniel Horowitz — was bludgeoned and stabbed in the couple’s Lafayette home on Oct. 15.
Fielding was booked into jail at 11:15 a.m. on suspicion of being an accessory to murder after the fact. The state penal code prohibits harboring, concealing or aiding a suspect to help that suspect “avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment.”
“Scott was the apple of her eye,” said Elena Dziadevitch of Alamo, who two years ago rented a room in Dyleski’s and Fielding’s home in Lafayette. The home is owned by Dziadevitch’s ex-husband’s brother. “She lived for him, and she would do anything for him. My impression of her is that she would have done anything for her son.”
Police have not revealed a motive in the slaying, but a source close to the investigation has said investigators believe Dyleski killed Vitale when he went to her home to retrieve marijuana-growing equipment he had ordered using stolen credit card information.
Vitale, 52, was killed in a mobile home she shared with her husband while they were building their dream house in Lafayette’s remote Hunsaker Canyon. She was stabbed and struck repeatedly with a piece of wood molding, and her killer left a T-shaped mark or symbol in her back, the source said.
A close friend of Fielding, who asked not to be named, said that Fielding went into seclusion on Oct. 20, the day after her son’s arrest, and has not been speaking or going to work since.
“This is a total shock — this is the first we’ve heard of this,” the friend said of her arrest. “I can’t believe they are saying she had any role in Pamela’s death. I think they are just trying to put pressure on her, on Scott. I know she wanted to help her son, but she didn’t know he had anything to do with Pamela.”
Until recently, Fielding was the co-owner of the Cafe Esperanza in Lafayette, but the business was sold in April. She now works as a baker, her friends said, and she offers alternative healing in the form of “DNA activation,” which she touts as a powerful tool for repairing the body, mind and soul.
Fielding was arrested on Thursday, the same day Contra Costa Superior Court Judge David Flinn silenced all of the attorneys, court employees and witnesses involved in the Vitale case with a gag order that bars them from discussing the case with the media.
Prosecutor Harold Jewett declined to comment on Fielding’s arrest, citing the gag order. Sheriff’s office spokesman Jimmy Lee also declined to comment.
Jail officials refused to ask Fielding if she would consent to an interview with The Chronicle, citing the gag order.
The order expires Nov. 10, when Flinn is scheduled to hear arguments from Jewett, who favors the order, and from those who oppose the order.
Fielding is mentioned in affidavits that accompany search warrants in the case.
When investigators first questioned her, she told them, “Scott knew he was in trouble over credit cards and has an attorney.”
According to an affidavit, on the night of the Vitale killing, Dyleski went to his girlfriend’s home in Walnut Creek to have sex. He phoned his mother, who told him to spend the night at his girlfriend’s house because the roads in their neighborhood were blocked due to police activity, the affidavit states.
While searching the property where Fielding and Dyleski live, investigators reported finding a duffel bag inside a 1986 Toyota van registered to Fielding.
“Inside this duffel bag several clothing items were found, some containing traces of blood,” an affidavit reads. “A single glove was located within which had the presence of blood.”
Dyleski appeared in court briefly Thursday but did not enter a plea because his case is being reassigned to the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office after the resignation of his attorney, Thomas McKenna.
Dyleski, shackled at the wrists and ankles, stood expressionless during the proceeding. He closed his eyes and nodded in response to a query from the judge. He is to return to court Nov. 9 to enter a plea.
The Vitale slaying has attracted nationwide media coverage. The gag order is needed, Flinn said, because any further release of information related to the investigation would “make it difficult to impanel an impartial jury.”
Keywords: Scott Dyleski
Oct. 28, 2005
Demian Bulwa, Jim Herron Zamora and Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writers