When three teenagers decided they wanted to make a human sacrifice to the devil in the hope it would make their heavy metal band famous, they chose the purest girl they knew: Elyse Pahler. But how they killed her, and what they did to her body...
When three teenagers decided they wanted to make a human sacrifice to the devil in the hope it would make their heavy metal band famous, they chose the purest girl they knew: Elyse Pahler. But how they killed her, and what they did to her body afterward were truly horrific, and all done in the name of Satan.
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Hey y’all, and welcome back to Kudzu Killers: Homicide and Sweet Tea. Hope you had a chance to listen to our Monday episode of Two Chicks and a Crucifix yesterday, where Lark told the ghostly story of La Llorona. And, (royal horn noise), we have a brand-new website: www.kudzukillers.com, where you can access all the episodes and play them, as well as sign up for any future newsletters from us, and even leave us a voicemail. So, there ya go! I’m excited about that.
Today I’m going to bring you the what I would call horrifying story of Elyse Pahler, a 15-year-old high school student from Arroyo Grande, California. Arroyo Grande is a small town with a population of about 18,000 near San Luis Obispo, about 80 miles north of Santa Barbara. That little cutie, Zac Efron grew up there. Did you see him play Ted Bundy. Really creepy, but good. The town is pretty safe, crime is, from what I could tell, a little lower now, but still below the US average in violent crime. Probably still not good for a 15 year old girl to be running around at night back in 95.
Elyse was involved in her community, she was in the theater group at her high school, she was active in sports, and she was even a member of the church choir. She had a little bit of a wild side, like some teenagers do. I didn’t. I was too much of a goody two shoes. But Elyse would often sneak out at night and go drinking and smoking pot with friends. In fact, she’d been in rehab at one point at the Maricopa Community Recovery Center. Tried to find this place and couldn’t, so I’m not sure of the location. I’m assuming probably somewhere near SLO.
Wherever it is, it was there she met another teen by the name of Jacob Delashmutt. Elyse wanted to be an actress. Jacob played in a heavy metal band with his two friends, Royce Casey and Joseph Fiorella. Elyse had attended school with Fiorella at one point, before he left, and they knew each other. In fact, you might say Fiorella had a little crush on Elyse. She was a very pretty girl.
Unbeknownst to Elyse, though, these boys had a dark side. Much darker than sneaking out at night to have a drink or a toke. Fiorella, who was the youngest of the three, was heavily into reading about Satan and Satanic worship, he brooded in his room reading books on the subject, and listening to the music of heavy metal band, Slayer, which we’ll talk more about in a minute.
The three boys formed a metal band they called Hatred. They were sort of a tribute band, I guess you could say, for Slayer, since they more or less copied their style. So pretty much most of what these boys did was sit around listening to Slayer, smoking pot, taking other drugs like meth, and planning to make a sacrifice to Satan, which they had decided would be what made them a professional band. It would make their guitar playing fantastic, their music stellar. They’d become rich and famous. All they needed was a sacrifice. Specifically, a human sacrifice. Better if it was a pure and beautiful sacrifice. Like a virgin. Like blonde-haired, blue-eyed Elyse Pahler.
On the night of July 22, 1995, Elyse was home with her family, sitting around watching TV, when she got a phone call. It was one of the boys, asking her to meet them, hang out, smoke some pot. She told her parents she was going to bed, and then snuck out of the house, as she was known to do, and met the boys near a patch of eucalyptus trees on the Nipomo Mesa.
There they sat around and got high, and then suddenly Delashmutt moved behind Elyse, ripped his belt from his pants, and wrapped it around her neck. While he strangled her, Casey held her down as she thrashed and prayed to God and cried out for her mother. Then Fiorella pulled out a hunting knife and stabbed her in the neck. The boys took turns stabbing her as she continued to scream and pray and cry for her mom.
But Elyse didn’t die. Not right then. None of the stab wounds were fatal. So as she lay there slowly bleeding to death, the boys took turns stomping on her neck, trying to make her die faster. When she finally took her last breath, the boys took turns raping her body. When they were finished, they just left her there, lying among the eucalyptus trees.
And listen, that wasn’t the end of it. They came back to that patch of trees over and over, raping Elyse’s dead and decomposing body. They even bragged about it to their friends, but I guess they didn’t believe them. Maybe they had a history of lying, making up stuff, who knows. I can’t figure out why no one told anybody, especially when Elyse turned out to be missing. I mean, this is a very small town, only about 14,000 back in 1995. Fiorella even told his mother what they’d done. She didn’t do a thing. They didn’t just brag about killing her to these people, they told them about returning again and again to have sex with the corpse. But nobody said a word. Nobody told the cops. Elyse’s parents were trying to find their daughter, and nobody helped at all.
But then something happened to Royce Casey. He moved on from the band and from the Satanic worship. He became a Christian, he started going to church, and he developed a conscience. He’d also become afraid of the two other teens because they knew he was feeling guilty about what they’d done. They told him Elyse wouldn’t be the only one they murdered. They quoted a line from Casey went to the police detectives who’d been trying to find Elyse for 8 months, and he confessed what they’d done. He led them to her body. In March, 1996, Casey led them to Elyse’s decomposed body under those eucalyptus trees on Nipomo Mesa. And he told them everything.
We’re gonna take a break here and we’ll be back to talk about confessions and trials after a word from our sponsors.
Thanks for coming back. Back to our heartbreaking story about the murder of Elyse Pahler.
Royce Casey basically spilled his guts to investigators. The boys had planned Elyse’s murder for more than a month while they sat around playing death metal and listening to Slayer, he said. They took the band’s lyrics about sex, the devil, and murder seriously. The had decided, as I said earlier, that making a sacrifice to Satan would make them become rich and famous. As Casey said during his confession, they felt it would give them the right level of craziness to be a successful death metal band. They thought if they made the perfect sacrifice to Satan, he’d help them play guitar better, they’d go, to use Casey’s word “professional.”
According to Casey, they’d attempted to kill her once before. Casey hadn’t been there, but he said Fiorella and Delashmutt had enlisted another teenager named Williams according to one of the accounts I read, to help them. They talked Elyse into going for a walk with them in a ravine on the mesa. Then Fiorella tossed Williams a knife and both Fiorella and Delashmutt shouted for him to “do it, do it!” Instead, the teen just stood there, and the murder plot was foiled. But Elyse never reported this incident. Evidently she didn’t take them seriously either, and she still trusted these boys enough to go out with them again on the night of her murder.
I don’t think I’d have had anything to do with them again. They must have just laughed it off with her and pretended they were playing a prank. Otherwise, I can’t imagine why she’d go out with them at night to the mesa again. Or, like I said, even speak to them.
So after his confession, after police located the body and notified Elyse’s parents about their daughter, Royce Casey, Joseph Fiorella and Jacob Delashmutt were arrested for the murder of Elyse Pahler. They all pled no contest and admitted their crime, admitted to the necrophilia, admitted to planning the murder as a sacrifice for Satan. They said the lyrics of the songs of Slayer gave them the idea. Specifically one that says “If you’re not with us, you may no longer exist.” I tried to find what song that comes from, and I couldn’t find it anywhere, so if someone knows… I’m thinking that maybe the wording in the articles I read is not quite right, or in what the boys quoted to detectives. But who knows.
Each of the boys were sentenced to 26 years to life. Only TWENTY-SIX YEARS for what they did. Premeditated, cold-blooded murder, necrophilia, leaving that girl out there to rot while her parents and the town looked for her. For eight months.
They’re being held at separate prisons across California.
Joseph Fiorella, now 40, was the ringleader of the entire murder plot, the one who turned the others on to Satanism, the one who was first to stab her in the throat, was up for parole in June of 2019. On August 22 of that year, at his own request, he waived his right to a parole hearing for 2 years, and he will have another parole suitability hearing on July 7 of this year. At this time he’s incarcerated at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California.
Jacob Delashmutt, 41 years old, whom Elyse counted as a friend, who knew what she’d gone through with drug and alcohol problems, was eligible for parole in September of 2017, but he was denied parole and won’t be eligible again until December of 2024. He’s currently housed at the Correctional Training Facility, which is a fancy name for a prison, in Soledad, California.
Royce Casey, at 42, the oldest of the three, was eligible for parole in December of 2016. He’s been denied parole twice before, on July 12, 2016 he was denied parole for 5 more years, but he filed a petition to move that date up to 3 years, and was once again denied parole on July 24, 2019. Again he filed a petition and he has another hearing this year. Next month, in fact, on March 17. Here’s hoping he gets denied again, because he seems to want out asap. Although he was the one whose guilt finally made him want to confess, it was 8 months and a few conjugal visits to her body late in my mind.
I personally don’t think any of them should get parole. Ever. There’s no point in having them in prison if you’re going to let them have a new parole hearing every couple of years.
Now, let’s go back to Slayer and the death metal band these guys were playing with. Elyse’s parents, who were outraged at the testimony that these boys planned their daughter’s murder while listening to Slayer’s death music, decided to sue Slayer for the harmful and murderous lyrics of their music. They tried twice and their lawsuits were tossed both times, the judges saying they had no merit.
And I used to agree. I always thought it was silly to blame video games or heavy metal music for murders or suicides or other types of violence. People choose their actions, they don’t have to do what music tells them to do. But as I was researching this story, I did find some studies that had different conclusions. They seemed to find that the violence of the lyrics, the thrashing beats of the music, made the listeners angry, upped their stress levels, caused them to sometimes lash out in aggression. But according to a study out of Australia, which I read on sciencefocus.com, most of these studies fail to take into account things like home life, drug abuse, possible violent upbringing and other things that could account for the violence seen in some heavy metal listeners.
So basically, heavy metal listeners were no more likely to be desensitized to violence that non-listeners according to this study, but their backgrounds, drug use and other factors may lead to a higher tendency for those behaviors. I can probably buy into that. I think with most killers, especially what we’ve seen with serial killers like Richard Ramirez and others, is that a violent upbringing with regular beatings by parents, or other abuse by parents, siblings, guardians, friends, and others is more likely to affect their behaviors, and maybe enhance any inherent psychopathy, than simply listening to violent lyrics.
I think you and I can kind of attest to that. We’re both with heavy metal fans, and neither of them are violent. In fact, they’re so laid back sometimes we might need to check them for a pulse. So listening to those lyrics certainly hasn’t caused them to go out and murder someone. That behavior is a choice. Maybe spurred on by anger and aggression from the music they listen to or games they play, but it’s still a choice. I don’t think you can hold a specific band, or a video game maker, responsible for the independent actions of a few people who have psycho tendencies.
In the years that have passed since the murder of Elyse Pahler, her murderers have recanted the idea that the Slayer music caused them to do these horrific acts. They site other reasons, such as Fiorella’s obsession with Elyse, and the idea of killing her or someone else. Whatever the reason, you still need to pay for your actions, and there’s no telling how long Elyse would have lain in that grove of Eucalyptus trees if not for the conscience of Royce Casey. Because nobody they told their twisted story to believed them. Nobody called police.
What do you all think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you believe heavy metal music or violent video games can desensitize people to the point of causing them to commit murder.
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