Marsha Ginsburg, Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, October 21, 2005
Scott Dyleski seemed like a typical suburban kid. He loved baseball. He was a Boy Scout. He earned excellent grades.
That started to change in the eighth grade, and by the time Dyleski moved from Stanley Middle School to Acalanes High School in Lafayette, friends and fellow students said, he'd gone from slightly nerdy to sincerely strange.
His smile disappeared. He favored dark clothes. He dyed his brown hair black. He donned dark eyeliner, shaved his head in odd places and wore a trench coat. His fingers sported silver jewelry and black nail polish.
But despite his brooding personality, classmates said, Dyleski was generally considered a kind and caring kid.
At some point, investigators said, his demeanor turned truly sinister.
Investigators said Dyleski concocted a scheme to grow marijuana and finance it with stolen credit card numbers -- a plan they said led him to bludgeon Pamela Vitale to death and carve a T-shaped "gothic signature" on her back.
Dyleski is 16 and lives with his mother on Hunsaker Canyon Road about a mile from where Vitale lived with her husband, attorney and TV commentator Daniel Horowitz. His sister Denika was killed two years ago in a car crash at age 18, and according to court records, his father and stepmother of more than 10 years filed for divorce on Oct. 12.
Students at Acalanes High School said Dyleski was a nonconformist who walked with his head down and withdrew into drawing and painting. He studied hard for the GED because he despised high school and wanted to leave. When he did, he enrolled in art classes at Diablo Valley College.
Word that he was a suspect in Vitale's death spread quickly around Acalanes High School on Thursday, after teachers read a short announcement about his arrest. The news left the school reeling. Recently, one student's mother stepped in front of a car in an apparent suicide, and a former student who had graduated last year hanged himself.
"It's been a bad week," the mother of one student said, declining to give her name.
School principal John Nickerson refused to comment and told students not to speak to reporters.
Still, many did, and some said Dyleski was a caring boy who prided himself on being different. Others said he was creepy.
Keith Kingon, who attended middle school with Dyleski, called him a devil worshiper who read the satanic bible at lunch "just to get everyone shocked."
"It was like a Charles Manson-type thing," Kingon said. "He shocked people in a negative way. He was an instigator."
Kevin McDonald, an 18-year-old Acalanes graduate, said "I always thought he was trying to get attention, but he seemed like a nice guy, not someone who would ever do something like this."
Whatever his personality, students said Dyleski wasn't known for trouble. The only incident anyone could recall occurred when a sixth-grader commented on Dyleski's appearance. He reportedly punched the boy in the face. School officials reacted by banning trench coats, but Dyleski kept wearing black every day.
"It wasn't just the coat and the things on his hands, it was his attitude and his personality," a fellow student said. "He seemed angry."
Although many said Dyleski hung out with the "goth group" at school, his former stepfather Glen Hirschberger told The Chronicle that phase of his life had faded.
"He was into that a little bit," Hirschberger said. "But he's a pretty sensible kid."
One of Dyleski's friends from middle school, who asked not to be named, said he often grew angry when other students said bad things about Dyleski and said people didn't like Dyleski because of the way he looked. Once you got to know him, the boy said, Dyleski was likable.
"We all knew he would become something good," the 17-year-old said.
Wilma Holgerson of Lafayette was a friend of the Dyleski family and called the teen's mother "one of the sweetest, caring and loving women you could ever meet."
"She was the kind of single mom you take your hat off to, when you see someone who does everything you should do to raise a kid," Holgerson said.
She said Dyleski was a quiet child who took a fair share of teasing from classmates.
"He was always on the periphery and one that other kids shunned," she said. "They were not nice to him. He was always by himself. I never saw an odd duck, just a kid who was lonely."
Such a waste. Seems that a combination of social pressures and the numbing effects of a stupifying herb like cannabis contributed to the degeneration of this potential dark artist - he even had The Satanic Bible in his hands, yet obviously, could not unfortunately apply the undefiled discipline therein, despite making some solid points. A true Satanist would not allow such a situation to occur, and adheres to the laws of the land for the preservation of mental peace, and to engage in productive, imaginative persuits which ensure beneficial progress and supply responsible indulgence. Satanists do not abuse narcotics, which stunt and deplete the mind. For such is weakness.