Elyse Mary Pahler was born on April 24, 1980, in Arroyo Grande, California, where she has lived all her life. In the 1990s, the town had 15,000 inhabitants, was quiet and peaceful, and cruel crimes were not common.
Elyse lived with her parents and two younger siblings, and from a very young age she attracted attention for her blonde hair and blue eyes. One of her childhood dreams was to participate in beauty contests and to be an actress.
In her early teens, she used to spend a lot of time with her family and attend church. Everything changed in high school, where Elyse began to use alcohol and drugs.
She was even taken to a drug rehabilitation center for using marijuana at school. There she met 15-year-old Jacob Delashmutt.
This friendship led Elyse to meet two other teenagers, Joseph Fiorella and Royce Casey who had attended the same school as the girl, but were expelled. The three young men were known to get into trouble.
The young men decided to form a heavy metal band called Hatred, inspired by the famous band Slayer. The interests in Satanism and the occult quickly appeared in their band style, due to the influence of Joseph who consumed a lot of Satanism and occult-related content.
The band was not very successful, and Joseph seemed to have a solution: the trio should offer the sacrifice of a young virgin to the devil, and in return they would gain money and fame. The other two boys thought the idea was crazy, but quickly gave in and spent months planning how they would do it.
They knew the perfect person for this, Elyse Pahler. On July 22, 1995, the girl, then 15 years old, simply disappeared from her home. Friends, family and neighbors had no information, and the case remained at a standstill for the next eight months.
Where is the body?
In 1996, almost a year after Elyse’s disappearance, a young man went to the police claiming that he knew what had happened. Royce Casey, then 17, was able to lead the authorities to the location where the body was.
Her partially mummified remains were scattered in a wood very close to her home. She had been strangled and received 12 stab wounds, the cause of death due to massive blood loss.
Royce told that Joseph and Jacob were also involved in the crime. The boy detailed the chronology of the facts and the reason why they had committed the crime: a religious sacrifice.
According to Royce, that night he called Elyse and invited her to a place not far from his house, under the excuse that they would smoke marijuana and chat. The girl quickly accepted, since she was used to doing this. Elyse didn’t tell her parents.
During the night everything seemed normal, until the boys decided to act. Jacob managed to fasten a belt around the young woman’s neck, while Royce held her arms back so that she could not fight back.
Royce said that it did not take long for Elyse to pass out, due to the belt that tightened around her neck. After the girl lost consciousness, the three boys started stabbing her, taking turns to stab her.
Before leaving the scene, with Elyse already dead, the youths sexually abused her body. And as if that were not enough, they returned several times to the crime scene over the next few weeks to have sex with the corpse.
The three criminals were minors
At the time of the crime, the three young men were underage. Royce only decided to talk about the crime because months after the act he moved away from the other two boys and started to attend a church. In his statement, he said that he was afraid that he felt like killing again, or that he would become a victim of his former friends.
Surprisingly, Jacob and Joseph made it very clear that they would kill again in Satan’s name. Royce told the police that this was not the first attempt to kill Elyse. According to him, Jacob, Joseph and a third boy had already lured her out for a walk with the intention of killing her, but something went wrong and they gave up.
Slayer band is sued
The boys admitted that they were inspired to kill by the music of the band Slayer. Elyse’s family even filed a lawsuit against the band, claiming that their songs made an apology for crime, violence and murder.
The case was dismissed. According to the judge, the band’s lyrics are indeed repulsive and shocking but do not encourage listeners to commit cruel acts that result in a person’s death, as in the case of Elyse Pahler.
1997, the trial
The three boys were tried separately. Joseph Fiorella reached a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 26 years.
Royce Casey did not contest the life sentence and was sentenced with parole after a minimum of 21 years.
Jacob Delashmutt also assumed guilt in the first-degree murder of the young woman. He was sentenced to life in prison with the right to parole after a minimum of 26 years.
Chance of parole
In the year 2021, Royce got his first chance for parole. Members of Elyse’s family did not oppose his release, and he had a record of over twenty years of good behavior in prison.
Royce attended several rehabilitation programs, completed high school, and was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. At several parole hearings he expressed regret for the crime.
Royce was to receive his parole, but a California state’s attorney wrote a letter to the governor opposing this release. In the document he claimed that Royce never adequately explained why he agreed to participate in such a sadistic crime. Royce’s right to parole was denied.
The three killers remain in prison.