MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) – A teenage neighbor was arrested in the slaying of a prominent defense attorney’s wife, and a newspaper reported Thursday that he clubbed her to death while looking for marijuana-growing equipment he had ordered.

Authorities would not identify the 16-year-old youth and said they were still working to determine a motive for the beating death Saturday of Pamela Vitale, the wife of lawyer and TV legal pundit Daniel Horowitz.

“Although we have a suspect, the investigation is still going on,” said sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee. “Much more work still needs to be done.”

Vitale, 52, was slain over the weekend at the hilltop estate where the couple were building their dream home in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Lafayette. The teenager lived down the hill on a remote canyon road. He was arrested Wednesday night.

The San Francisco Chronicle, citing an unidentified law enforcement source, reported that investigators believe the killing was related to a scheme that involved using stolen credit card numbers to fund a marijuana-growing operation.

The source said the boy had ordered equipment for the pot operation and mistakenly thought the supplies were delivered to Horowitz and Vitale’s home, the newspaper reported on its Web site.

He went there Saturday looking for the equipment and got in a fight with Vitale, striking her dozens of times in the head with a piece of molding that was left behind at the scene, according to the source.

The boy apparently had scratches on his arms and legs from the fight, the newspaper reported.

The suspect was described as a quiet student at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, where he stood out because of his attire.

“He was really gothic, always wore a long, dark jacket,” said Kevin Etheridge, 16. “He’d hang out with a few kids, but he was pretty quiet, pretty much to himself.”

If the boy is convicted of murder as an adult, he would face up to life in prison. If convicted as a juvenile, he would be freed on his 25th birthday. He is too young to face the death penalty.

Horowitz said he discovered his wife’s body when he returned home after working on the case of Susan Polk, a woman accused of stabbing to death her therapist husband.

“She fought back very hard. That was very obvious from the scene,” he said Wednesday, adding that his wife had a head wound.

Vitale, 52, worked part-time for her husband’s law firm and had been in the front row of the courtroom during opening statements.

Horowitz rose to national prominence as a cable news commentator during the Scott Peterson murder trial. He was in seclusion Thursday as Vitale’s funeral was held in a private graveyard ceremony.


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