Final Analysis: The Untold Story of the Susan Polk Murder Case - Catherine Crier (2007)



Dressed conservatively in a gray suit, her short hair overgrown and brushed off her face, Susan unceremoniously entered the courtroom of the Contra Costa County Courthouse on October 11, 2005, for the opening remarks in her murder trial.

Onlookers watched from the gallery as Susan slid into a chair at the defense table between her lawyers, Dan Horowitz and Ivan Golde. Next to the tanned Horowitz, she looked pale and fragile, having lost a considerable amount of weight since her incarceration.

In the days leading up to the trial, her lawyers publicly proclaimed they would prove Susan acted in self-defense when she stabbed Felix in the guest cottage on October 13, 2002. They asserted that responding officers contaminated the crime scene that night by moving the body from its original position on the floor of the living room.

Pointing to police crime scene photos, Horowitz claimed that documented blood smears around the body and on the floor nearby indicated that Felix had been turned over by investigators, thus destroying potential evidence of Susan’s innocence.

Superior Court Judge Laurel Brady had replaced Judge Mary Ann O’Malley on the bench after Susan complained bitterly of O’Malley’s bias. Judge Brady, a square-shouldered woman with graying hair and a conservative manner, had been appointed to the bench in 1996 by then-Governor Pete Wilson. Susan was unhappy with her assignment as well. Brady had served as a prosecutor with both the Contra Costa and Solano County District Attorneys Offices, and had presided over numerous murder trials. She was married to Larry Brady, a longtime member of the Richmond Police Department who had recently retired after twenty-six years on the job. Using her preemptory challenge, Susan had asked that Judge Brady also recuse herself, but the court denied her request, ruling that Susan had filed it too late.

The trial had already been delayed two times by Judge Brady, who cited her “extensive calendar” as the reason for the postponements. In addition, Susan’s constant bickering with the judge, when she was acting as her own attorney, had nearly doubled the length of the hearings. Prosecutor Tom O’Connor had exhibited great restraint, despite the repeated delays. During his eleven years with the district attorney’s office, O’Connor had won several convictions on charges of first-degree murder and he appeared confident he would secure another in the Polk case.

After eleven days of jury selection, the trial finally got underway that Tuesday with O’Connor’s blow-by-blow recounting of the night that Gabriel Polk discovered his father’s “motionless body” covered in blood and lying on the floor of the family’s guest cottage.

A commanding figure at well over six feet, O’Connor grabbed the courtroom’s attention when he stood to address the jurors. In his opening remarks, he told the panel of six women and six men that the Polks were in the middle of a “heated divorce” when Susan confronted Felix that October night. According to O’Connor, Susan was furious after learning that a judge had awarded Felix custody of their minor son and given him sole occupancy of the house while she was out of town. Even worse, Felix had managed to have her monthly support payments slashed from six thousand eight hundred dollars to one thousand seven hundred dollars.

It was enough to kill for, according to O’Connor. Felix’s injuries were “of a man fighting for his life,” he continued. “In contrast, the defendant had almost nothing. Clearly, it was a one-sided battle.”

The prosecutor pointed out that Felix had been stabbed numerous times; sustaining six incise wounds and defensive-type wounds on his hands, forearms, and the soles of his feet. Police observed redness around Susan’s eye and small cuts on her hand. It was most telling, though, that she publicly denied any involvement in her husband’s death for some time, although she claimed to have privately admitted her role to family members and her attorneys soon after her arrest in October 2002.

“Now she claims she killed him in self-defense,” O’Connor said, resting his gaze on the jurors. “The defendant is nothing but a cold, callous, calculating murderer. She got wind of what was happening in the divorce proceeding. She became angry…and came home [from Montana] to take care of business.”

Rising from his seat at the defense table, Dan Horowitz disputed the prosecutor’s allegations. “My client defended her life against an attack by a rage-filled, brutal, aggressive man who was also her husband,” Horowitz began in a soft voice.

Promising to dispel the prosecution’s claim that his client killed her husband for financial gain, he said, “This concept of the financial divorce is wildly unsupported.”

Susan wore a blank expression as her lawyer pointed out that she was the one who kept the family finances and was aware that once the court-appointed accountant reviewed the couple’s financial background it would become clear that the information Felix had provided to the court was inaccurate.

“Susan Polk was going to get her money back retroactively,” Horowitz insisted.

The defense attorney used his opening remarks as an opportunity to relate details of Susan’s childhood and to tell jurors of her early sessions with Felix Polk as a fifteen-year-old patient. He described the therapist as a delusional narcissist who “hyper-controlled” his wife and children and proclaimed that Susan and her family members would take the stand to testify as much.

At one point, he even drew a parallel between Felix Polk and fanatical cult leader James Warren “Jim” Jones, the American founder of the Peoples Temple Church in San Francisco and later Jonestown in Guyana. It was Jones who organized the mass suicide of 914 of his followers, including nearly three hundred children, and convinced them to collectively drink a Kool-Aid cocktail laced with poison in November 1978.

Horowitz insisted that just as Jones gained control over his disciples, Felix won psychological control over Susan by molesting her under hypnosis at the tender age of sixteen, and then continuing the abuse with threats and beatings over the course of their marriage.

From the front row of the gallery, Horowitz’s wife, Pamela Vitale, listened intently as her husband next introduced Felix’s little-known secret: that he had been committed to a psychiatric hospital after suffering a “schizophrenic reaction” in the mid-fifties while serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. It was news to many in the courtroom that Dr. Polk had spent nearly one year in a locked ward of a U.S. Naval Hospital. Horowitz promised more on Felix’s hospitalization through testimony from a defense expert who would explain how Felix’s mental condition made him prone to “outbursts of rage, violence, and anger.”

“Susan Polk defended her life against an attack by a vengeful, rageful, aggressive man,” Horowitz insisted. “She was on her back. She fought him off and lived.”

In spite of Horowitz’s strong opening, the trial did not get off to a good start. Jurors seemed skeptical of the defense’s claim that police had mishandled evidence. In addition, Horowitz’s explanation for Susan’s initial denial and subsequent cover-up of the crime did not appear to ring true with the twelve jurors—especially after they heard the prosecutor describe her elaborate efforts to cover up the crime during his opening remarks. O’Connor pointed out that Susan cleaned and hid the knife used in the attack, got rid of her bloody clothing, and placed her husband’s car at the train station in an effort to cover her tracks. Those were hardly the actions of an innocent woman, he insisted.

The following morning, jurors boarded a bus for the Polk’s hillside residence to get their first look at the Miner Road crime scene. The group spent several hours viewing the pool area and the guesthouse where Gabriel found his father’s bloodied body.

That Wednesday, the jury heard from prosecution witnesses, among them the 911 operator who took Felix Polk’s call on October 6, exactly one week before the murder, to report that his wife had threatened his life.

“I remember the caller saying, ‘My wife threatened to kill me,’” police dispatcher Randee Johnson testified.

Another witness, Deputy Sheriff Shannon Kelly, one of the first officers on the scene, testified that Susan denied having done anything wrong during the ride to police headquarters on the night of October 14,2002. Although his role in the criminal investigation was limited, Kelly endured two hours of cross-examination by Horowitz, who was trying to cast doubt on police competence at the crime scene. This strategy proved lost on jurors, two of whom were overheard in the men’s room trying to figure out why Horowitz had spent so much time with Kelly. Apparently the men were unaware that defense lawyer, Ivan Golde, was also in the bathroom at the time.

“They didn’t see me,” Golde later complained to Judge Brady. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

The judge denied Horowitz’s request to have the two jurors removed from the case, but warned the men to refrain from further discussion of the case. “I know this is not like what you see on TV, but it is important,” Judge Brady told the jurors.

O’Connor closed the first week of testimony with a victory, as the judge accepted into evidence the letter Susan wrote describing Felix’s alleged involvement with the Mossad. The defense was successful in convincing Judge Brady to admit a second letter that Susan wrote to her children in which she detailed the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of Felix.

But the trial would take an unexpected turn when, four days into the case, Daniel Horowitz made a grisly discovery.

It was just before 6 PM on Saturday, October 15, when the lawyer punched in the security code for the locked gates barring entrance to his home at 1901 Hunsaker Canyon Road. He steered his red Honda S2000 up the winding dirt driveway. At the top of the remote hill was an expansive construction site, where Horowitz and his wife, Pamela Vitale, were building a lavish, seven-thousand-square-foot Italian-style mansion. Off to one side was a rundown trailer where the couple had been living with their dogs for nearly a decade while they oversaw the construction of their dream house.

The temporary home was cramped and without amenities. The couple had been pumping their water from a well on the property, where Dan intended to start a winery once construction was complete. It was no secret that Horowitz was wealthy, although it was unclear exactly how he had made his fortune.

Dan first met Pamela, a single mother of two, in 1994 when she moved to the Bay Area from Los Angeles County, according to a website maintained by Pamela’s family. At forty-one, she was a striking brunette, two years Dan’s senior and nearly three inches taller than the lawyer.

The couple was introduced by Pamela’s sister, who arranged for Pam, an independent film producer, to read a script that Dan had written about one of his cases. Bright, ambitious, and sophisticated, Pamela was employed full time as a software-marketing executive and was raising a sixteen-year-old daughter and nineteen-year-old son. Later, she would apply her computer savvy smarts to Dan’s law firm, maintaining databases and supervising the construction of their twelve-acre mountaintop estate.

Horowitz knew something was wrong the minute he spotted his wife’s car in the driveway. She was supposed to be going to the Kirov Ballet in Berkeley that night. His suspicions increased when he found the front door of the trailer unlocked. Stepping inside, he gasped at the sight of his wife lying on her right side in a pool of blood, her body pushed up against the couple’s sixty-five-inch television set. She was dressed in a T-shirt and panties, and there was a giant gash on her head. The carpet beneath her was red with blood, and the living room furniture had been moved about. The giant TV had been shoved nearly two and a half feet from its usual spot.

Hysterical, the lawyer called 911.

“Help me, she’s dead!” he yelled into the receiver and then knelt down beside his wife’s body. Cradling her in his arms, he tried to absorb the sight of her beaten and mutilated face.

“Who could have done this?” he raged.

The sound of a police car roaring up the driveway startled him to his feet. Racing outside, he shouted to the responding officers from the Lafayette Police Department. Almost immediately, they pushed him into the police car and ordered him to wait while a team from the Contra Costa Sheriff ’s Department inspected the crime scene.

That night, sheriff ’s officers took Horowitz to department headquarters, where he was escorted to a room normally used to interview child victims. Over several hours, investigators fired a series of questions at him, first trying to determine if he was suicidal. Next, they handed him a pen and paper and directed him to reconstruct his movements; they wanted a detailed accounting of his whereabouts that day.

Horowitz told officers he hadn’t heard from his wife all day. He left home early that morning, around 7:30 AM, to meet a friend for breakfast. Upon arriving at his Oakland law office around 9:30, he tried to reach Pamela on her cell phone. She didn’t answer. He met with a private investigator at 10:45 and finished up some work on the Polk case.

It was 2 PM when he dialed Pamela for a second time with no success. Though he found it strange that she was not answering her phone, he wasn’t alarmed. His wife was a former high-tech executive who had traveled extensively, both domestically and internationally. At 59 and 178 pounds, she was no pushover. He assumed she was probably just busy with things at the house.

Horowitz told investigators that he left Oakland shortly thereafter. Later he made a deposit at the bank, and grabbed a Starbuck’s coffee in town before heading to the gym. After his workout, he headed for home, where he found his wife murdered.

Though short and slender, Horowitz had a wiry strength. While he stood barely 58, with thinning brown hair and rimless eyeglasses perched atop a prominent nose, he had honed the physique of a person who worked out seriously at the gym. Like many defense lawyers, Horowitz had received his share of threats over the years. Staying in top physical shape gave him a sense of security. He informed police he was licensed to carry a gun.

An initial investigation by members of the Contra Costa crime lab determined that Pamela Vitale was savagely beaten with “multiple objects” during the attack that claimed her life. Evidence collected at the crime scene indicated that she was hit numerous times with several different weapons, although police declined to reveal further details of the brutal assault other than to say that Pamela’s death was “violent.”

A coroner’s report would later reveal that the fifty-two-year-old was found facedown on the carpet. She was struck more than two dozen times in the head, some of the blows so powerful they dislodged her front teeth and exposed sections of her skull. She had also been stabbed in the abdomen while she lay dead in a pool of blood.

News of the horrific killing quickly drew national media attention to Susan Polk, as speculation swirled that Vitale’s death might somehow be linked to the Polk case. It seemed an eerie coincidence that both Felix Polk and Pamela Vitale had been brutally stabbed, although initial media reports stated only that Vitale had been bludgeoned to death. It was not long after Pamela’s body was discovered that police began looking into the possibility the cases were linked.

Among those interviewed by investigators was Susan’s middle son, Eli Polk, his younger brother, Gabriel, and lawyer Barry Morris. Investigators also questioned a number of the construction workers employed by Horowitz, as well as a neighbor, Joseph William Lynch, who had recently sold the couple four acres in Hunsaker Canyon.

A subsequent investigation revealed that Vitale and her husband had filed a restraining order against Lynch in Contra Costa Superior Court in June 2005. In the complaint, they charged that Lynch was mentally ill and a methamphetamine and alcohol user who routinely harassed them and other neighbors in the Lafayette area. Police were surprised to learn that the couple later elected not to serve Lynch with the court order after hearing that he had signed up for a drug rehabilitation program and was trying to clean up his act.

Lynch denied any involvement in the murder, claiming that Pamela and Horowitz were good people who had supported his efforts to get sober. “Dan was trying to help me,” Lynch told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I have a drug problem, an alcohol problem, and a big mouth. I’m clean and sober now. Dan and Pamela were really trying to help me.”

There was also mention of a former boyfriend of Pamela’s who had been trying to get back together with her in recent months, but Horowitz expressed doubt about the man’s involvement in his wife’s death. “I just think he knows what he missed out on,” the lawyer told a reporter for a local newspaper. “But to think of him as a suspect would be a grave injustice.”

On Monday, October 17, Dan Horowitz was at home making funeral arrangements when Judge Laurel Brady, at the request of Susan’s other attorney, Ivan Golde, dismissed the Polk jury and declared a mistrial in the case. Brady cited extensive media coverage of Pamela Vitale’s murder as grounds for her decision.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it would be hard to miss, despite my admonitions,” the judge told jurors over the sobs of Susan Polk. “I have reached the conclusion at this juncture that it is not possible to continue the trial.”

Brady ordered all parties back to court on December 2 to set a new trial date, but no one—including Dan Horowitz—knew if he could put aside the turmoil in his own life and represent Susan. Horowitz acknowledged his own uncertainty in an interview with the local daily, the Contra Costa Times. “I don’t know,” he told the newspaper when asked about representing Susan Polk. “I don’t know if I’m alive. I don’t know if I’m in hell.”

Outside the courtroom, Horowitz’s cocounsel, Ivan Golde, pointed to “a whole host of conflicts” that could arise since the same police agency that investigated Felix Polk’s murder was now looking into the death of Dan’s wife.

“You’ve got the same pathologist doing both investigations,” Golde told journalists gathered at the courthouse that Monday. “This creates a huge conflict. I don’t even know if we can try both cases now in Contra Costa County. We were doing well in there,” Golde said optimistically of their first week in court. “We were winning this case. I hope we can pick up where we left off.”

Still, members of the Polk jury said they did not hear enough of the case to form an opinion as to Susan’s guilt or innocence. “The prosecution was the only one who had the chance to present information,” said juror Mark Zigler of Concord. “There was not any reason to dismiss anything.”

Pamela Vitale had been seated in the front row of the courtroom on October 11, when her husband delivered his opening remarks in the high-profile Polk murder case. Now, just seven days later, her battered corpse lay on a gurney in the coroner’s office, awaiting an autopsy by Brian Peterson, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Felix. Horowitz was not pleased to learn that Peterson was going to conduct the post mortem examination of his wife, since he had intended to dispute several of his findings at trial.

It was just after 10 AM on October 17 when the medical examiner removed a large gold and diamond ring from Pamela Vitale’s left ring finger, and a gold band with a dark-colored stone and multiple clear stones from her right ring finger. After placing the items in the office for safekeeping, Dr. Peterson began the two-and-a-half-hour post mortem examination on Vitale.

In his official report, Peterson listed the cause of death as “blunt force head injury.” Pamela Vitale had sustained at least twenty-six crushing blows to the head and thirteen more to other parts of her face and body. “There are extensive scalp lacerations and abrasions,” Dr. Peterson recorded. “On the right side of the scalp, at least 8 distinct injuries are identified…”

An examination of the victim’s torso revealed a post-mortem four-inch stab wound to the left upper abdomen that had perforated the stomach, exposing the intestines. There was also “an H-shaped figure” carved into the skin of the “posterior torso area.” Scratch marks on Vitale’s breasts, arms, legs, and body indicated she had fought very hard for her life that morning. There were no signs of sexual assault. Still, a rape test was performed with negative results.

That Monday afternoon, police released an affidavit revealing that Pamela Vitale was not only bludgeoned but also savagely stabbed by a killer who wore gloves. In addition, crime scene investigators had located a “large-sized blood shoeprint” on the cover of a storage container found at the crime scene.

Two days after the autopsy, police made an arrest in Pamela’s murder. Surprising to some, the accused seemed to have no connection to the Polk case. The alleged killer was a sixteen-year-old boy named Scott Dyleski who lived with his mother and two families—eleven people in all—in a ramshackle house about one mile from Dan and Pamela on Hunsaker Canyon Road. Investigators linked Dyleski to a scheme with another youth to buy equipment for growing marijuana with stolen credit cards. The fraudulently obtained equipment was to be shipped to Dyleski’s address but listed Vitale’s home as the billing address. Homicide detectives speculated that Dyleski had gotten into a confrontation with Vitale when he went to her house thinking the package may have been accidentally delivered there.

Homicide detectives zeroed in on the teen just two days into their investigation after receiving a tip from a neighbor claiming that someone had obtained a credit card under his name and used it to purchase equipment often used to grow marijuana. In recent months, several of Vitale’s neighbors on Hunsaker Canyon Road had reported mail being stolen from a common mailbox area along the road at the base of a hill. An investigation into the thefts had yielded no suspects until one resident, Doug Schneider, reported that Horowitz’s remote hilltop address was provided as the shipping address for the hydroponics equipment that had been charged to his credit card on October 12.

Police got a second break on October 19 when a youth came forward to confess to a marijuana-growing scheme with his former classmate, Scott Dyleski. The youth, Robin Croen, told police they had been using fraudulently obtained credit cards to purchase the hydroponics lights used for growing marijuana. Croen, a student at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, told police that he and Dyleski, a classmate, intended to grow the plants in Dyleski’s closet.

According to Croen, the night before the murder Dyleski claimed that “there was some sort of problem with the orders” and assured him that he “just needed some more time to do something.” Police later learned that Dyleski and Croen, who was not implicated in the murder, allegedly conspired together in the mail thefts—including the one that lead to Vitale’s death.

Croen also told police that Dyleski had scratches on his face when he saw him on October 15—the day of the murder. Three days later, Dyleski showed up at Acalanes High School during lunch period and announced that he was going to tell his housemates about the credit card scam. “He said he was going to admit it because somehow this would separate him from the [Vitale] murder,” Croen told authorities. The comment concerned Croen, who could not understand how their credit card scheme could be linked to the woman’s murder. He asked Dyleski what he was talking about, and Dyleski “said he was afraid his DNA was on her because she had grabbed him at some point (while he was walking in the woods). I asked how or why, but I didn’t get an answer,” the youth told police.

Police subsequently alleged that Dyleski went to Vitale’s home that Saturday, October 15, to pick up the marijuana-growing equipment he ordered, but the package was not in the mailbox. Investigators suspected that Dyleski went inside the trailer to find out what happened to it, where he confronted Pamela Vitale and beat her to death. Dyleski had no way of knowing that the hydroponics equipment had never been shipped because the supplier suspected that something was amiss.

According to detectives, the gangly 55, 110-pound teenager was wearing gloves and a Balaclava mask (a mask which covers the entire face, with slits only for the eyes) when he entered the trailer home. Evidence collected at the scene indicated that he struck Vitale more than thirty times about the face and body with a broken piece of crown molding and other items before carving a “gothic signature” in the shape of an “H” into the small of her back.

After the murder, Scott Dyleski allegedly poured himself a glass of water, rinsed his hands in the sink and had a shower: a forensic examination of the bathroom faucets revealed traces of blood. Apparently unconcerned about the blood-stained crown molding he left, the teen used a little-traveled trail through the woods, arriving home sometime between 10:20 and 11:00 that morning. Croen wasn’t the only one who noticed Dyleski’s injuries that day. Several of his housemates later told police that they observed a gash on the boy’s face that morning. When asked about the wound, Scott claimed he scratched himself during a morning hike in the woods.

A forensic examination of Vitale’s laptop showed Pamela was on her computer, surfing the Internet for various things, including Court TV’s website, for articles about Dan’s criminal representation of Susan Polk, when Dyleski entered the trailer that Saturday morning. Logs show that at 10:12 AM her computer searches ceased.

On the evening of Wednesday, October 19, investigators served two search warrants on the home of Dyleski’s mother, Esther Fielding, “looking for any type of murder weapon that would cause blunt-force trauma or other injury.” Posters covered nearly every inch of wall space in Scott’s bedroom. Amid the clutter were drawings of symbols similar to the H-shape found carved into Vitale’s back. Three computers were seized by investigators, along with several knives, bedding, and other items. In a van behind the house, police found a duffel bag with Dyleski’s nametag. Inside, they found bloody clothes, shoes, and a ski mask that later tested positive for DNA from both Dyleski and Vitale.

The following morning, as friends and family were saying a final good-bye to Pamela at her funeral, her alleged killer was arrested and held in lieu of $1 million bail.

Six days after the killing, on October 21, the teen was brought before a Superior Court judge and charged with first degree murder as an adult. Handcuffs encircled his bony wrists, and strands of dark, wavy hair covered much of his angular face as he was led into the courtroom. Dyleski said nothing during the brief court appearance.

Details of his brief and troubled life would emerge in the days and weeks ahead. Interviews with schoolmates painted the teen as a loner who was mercilessly teased about the way he dressed by his classmates at Lafayette’s Acalanes High School. Friends said that Dyleski endured endless taunts for being “nerdy” while growing up in the small, rural town as a Boy Scout, a basketball player, and a good student in elementary school.

But something inside Scott seemed to die in 2001 when his eighteen-year-old half sister, Denika, was killed in a car crash. The once easygoing student suddenly began shaving parts of his head, wearing dark eyeliner and black nail polish and dying his brown hair jet black. He began dressing all in black accessorized by heavy silver jewelry and a long black trench coat like the one worn by rocker Marilyn Manson, the self-proclaimed “Anti-Christ Superstar” whose stage name merged that of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.

One former classmate told the San Francisco Chronicle he believed Scott was trying to be noticed with his strange appearance and clothing. “I always thought he was trying to get attention,” Kevin McDonald said of Dyleski. “But he seemed like a nice guy, not someone who would ever do something like this.”

Dyleski had been reportedly studying hard for his GED, desperate to escape Acalanes High School and the teasing he endured. He was taking art classes at Mt. Diablo College in Pleasant Hill, the same junior college that Susan Polk had attended as a teenager, and had submitted some of his dark, imagery-driven art for grades. He was to celebrate his eighteenth birthday two weeks after the murder.

On January 12, 2006, Susan stood before Judge Laurel Brady and asked that she be allowed to fire Horowitz and Golde, her fourth attorneys, and represent herself in the murder trial. While the lawyers knew beforehand that she wanted them removed, Susan’s action both surprised and disappointed them, after having invested so much into the high-profile case.

Interestingly, her decision to replace them seemed to have little to do with Horowitz’s personal tragedy. As most lawyers who worked with Susan discovered, representing her was something of a roller-coaster ride. Just two weeks prior to her announcement, she had expressed concern for Horowitz’s well-being and seemed happy to have him as her attorney, but soon something soured her on his representation.

In the weeks leading up to the trial, Susan had made many calls to Horowitz’s office with countless requests. Horowitz assigned Valerie Harris to handle the multitude of Susan’s needs, but as time went on, that arrangement backfired. Susan began complaining about what she perceived as Dan’s lack of attention to her case and accused him of failing to file legal motions on her behalf. Once she felt neglected, it was not long before she notified Horowitz that his services were no longer needed.

“She has a right to an attorney of her choice,” Horowitz told reporters outside the courtroom. “But the judge may not let me out because we’re so close to trial. I feel sorry for her [Susan]. What can I say? Going through Pamela’s death was a horrible experience. It’s not deliberate. She’s not really trying to hurt me. She’s desperate and scared.”

During the ninety-minute hearing before Judge Brady, Susan claimed that Horowitz had all but ignored her case since his wife was murdered. Though Horowitz had already filed some forty motions with the court, Susan still wasn’t happy, claiming he had failed to file others for her. Despite the severity of the charges, Susan believed that she could represent herself in court. She asked that Harris, with whom Susan had formed a strong bond, be permitted to remain on her case as a consultant.

In addition to her complaints about Horowitz, Susan also filed a lengthy declaration on January 12 in which she outlined several grievances she had with the judge and police department. Among other things, Susan complained that Horowitz had failed to file her motion to disqualify Judge Brady and the entire Contra Costa County judiciary because they were all prejudiced against her. She also claimed that she had been subjected to discriminatory treatment by law enforcement since she had unsuccessfully moved to have Judge Brady removed from the case in August—including being “the only female prisoner” to be transported in shackles.

Susan also claimed that Dan Horowitz was a suspect in the murder of his wife. Later, she told reporters that she believed that Horowitz may have been involved in Pamela’s murder “based on statements he made to me.” She even offered to testify on behalf of the murder suspect, Scott Dyleski, at his upcoming pretrial hearing. Though Horowitz declined to respond publicly to Susan’s allegations, in part because a gag order had been issued, it was clear that he was infuriated by her remarks.

Not surprisingly, Judge Brady denied Susan’s motion to have the entire judiciary of Contra Costa County removed at a hearing on January 20, but she granted Susan’s request to dismiss Horowitz. The judge set a new trial date for February 27, giving Susan six weeks to prepare her defense.

“It is Susan’s story,” a visibly pale Dan Horowitz said while waiting in the hallway of the courthouse after the hearing. “She lived it and she wants to tell it. She has the absolute right to present her own defense.”

Ivan Golde chose to phrase it a bit differently: “It’s a very sad day,” he said.