Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Elyse Marie Pahler: Was Slayer or Human Free Will Responsible?

by Chris Chaos

There are volumes upon volumes of books and articles written concerning Free Will [1]. Also there are many branches of philosophy dedicated to the subject. The differences between humans and animals were also taken into account:

Each animal on earth has a particular set of behaviors that it follows throughout its life cycle. For example a bear will suckle the momma bears teat until it is old enough to venture out on its own, in the winter the bear will hibernate and if its own cubs are threatened the mother bear will fearlessly attack whatever intends to harm the offspring.

Caterpillars go into a cocoon and exit as a butterfly, bees are attracted to flowers so they can pollinate....the list goes on. So are the actions and behaviors of animals which can be highly predictable governed by nature, an unseen force or do they have free will? What influences their behaviors?

Many humans consider themselves to be much more advanced and intelligent when compared to the common animal, so of course we as humans MUST have free will...right? Or are we just merely reacting to what our genetic code dictates?


 On a summer night Elyse snuck out of her house without her parents knowledge and was lured to her death by three teenage boys with the promise of drugs and alcohol. She was led to Nipoma Mesa which was thought to be a naturally formed Devil's Altar. The group wanted to sacrifice her in a satanic ritual to get their heavy metal band, Hatred, "the madness to go pro." They believed that by doing this it would be the ultimate crime against God by killing a virgin. The story was the basis and inspiration for the movie

Jennifer's Body, although the girl's and the bands roles were inverted.
Jennifer's Body

Elyse was born on Apr. 24, 1980 in Templeton California and died by murder Jul. 22, 1995 in Arroyo Grande California. When Elyse Marie Pahler was murdered her parents attempted to sue the band Slayer, claiming that their music contributed to their daughter's death.

The four sat at the mesa talking and smoking, Jacob walked behind Elyse, took off his belt and slung it around her neck pulling it tight. Royce held her hands down and she slowly started to pass out. Joseph pulled out a hunting knife and started to stab her over and over in the neck. Passing the knife around each teen took his turn stabbing her. Crying for help the boys kicked her in the back of the neck to finish her. Dragging her by her feet they dumped her at the edge of the grove where she bled to death.

Originally Casey stated that they were going to have sex with the corpse but decided not too (although they admitted to it later on). The police knew better because when her body was found there was evidence of sexual contact.


Jacob Delashmutt (15), Joseph Fiorella (16) and Royce Casey (17) raped and murdered Elyse leaving her body to be found 8 months later in Arroyo Grande, California. Casey confessed to the murder after he converted to Christianity and admitted that the trio returned to her corpse several times to have sex. The location of her body was revealed and after a lengthy case the murderers pleaded no contest to Elyse's murder and are now serving 25 years to life.


Immediately after Elyse went missing it was thought of as a runaway and for several months there was no sign of her.

Three months after the murder Casey wrote in his journal, " I’m fighting on the other side now, Allied with the darkened souls, Satan's arised and shall conquer and reign… In the bible it says that in the end Lucifer will bring out his best in everything, music, love, murder… All the psycho serial killers and rapists don’t know that if they would just build an alter of sacrifice and kill the person on the alter and then have repeated sex with the corpse. Virgin meat is the ultimate sacrifice.”

Afraid that his urge to kill may come to the surface again, he went to the police and confessed the crime. Also he feared that he might become the next victim of his cohorts. He then led the police to the grove where her body was and the rest is history.

During the court proceedings it was brought to light that the three murderers were all Slayer fans. Throughout the 80's the satanic panic was in full swing and metal music was the common scapegoat and the parents were all afraid of Satan. Fiorella stated that, "Slayer started to influence the way I looked at things.” After hearing this Elyse's parents filed a lawsuit against Slayer for providing the fans for all the information they needed to pull off a satanic murder. David Pahler also stated, “This case isn't about art, It’s about marketing. Slayer and others in the industry have developed sophisticated strategies to sell death metal music to adolescent boys. They don’t care whether the violent, misogynistic message in these lyrics causes children to do harmful things. They couldn't care less what their fans did to our daughter. All they care about is money.”



Despite Elyse sneaking out of the house in the past and trying marijuana on an other occasion her parents spoke of her as a great daughter,  “She was not a problem child. She was an independent girl who wanted to meet and know everyone in school,” said her father, David Pahler. Her classmates stated that she has tried drugs more than one time and back in junior high she was suspend for 5 days for underage drinking and has attended a drug recovery center.

Claiming protection under the First Amendment, Slayer's attorneys stated that their work was protected. “This case has nothing to do with the First Amendment. It’s about protecting children. The Pahler family is not out to censor or to stop Slayer from making this music. They’re simply saying we don’t want them to market this stuff to kids without parents being involved in the decision about the kids getting to hear this stuff. They would like it to be off limits. …Just like a child can’t go to X-rated movies, they don’t want them to be able to buy X-rated music. Kids can’t go watch snuff films, but we’re giving them snuff music. People say not every kid who listens to Slayer turns into a killer. The reality is [that Slayer is] standing up at the top of the Empire State Building throwing golf balls off. They may not kill somebody with the first golf ball. They may not even kill somebody with the second golf ball or the third, but eventually they’re going to hit somebody on the head and kill them.” Said Allen Hutkin, the families attorney.

Some of the lawyers likened the case to the tobacco companies intentionally marketing their products to children through the Joe Camel cartoon character. Including various Slayer lyrics, the claim was 38 pages and lay blame to specifically to the songs “Altar of Sacrifice,” “Kill Again,” “Tormentor” and “Necrophiliac”

Elyse's parents, David and Lisanne Pahler claimed that the Slayer songs "Postmortem" and "Dead Skin Mask"  gave the three killers detailed instructions to "stalk, rape, torture, murder and commit acts of necrophilia" on their daughter.

In 2001, Paul Bostaph, the drummer for Slayer stated, "They’re trying to blame the whole thing on us. That’s such nonsense. If you’re gonna do something stupid like that, you should get in trouble for it.” Paul also noted that the murderers hadn't even done the rituals that were outlined in the songs correctly, anyway. Singer Tom Araya was quoted as saying, “We’re part evil. If we were really evil, we would be doing everything we’re writing about.”


Judge E. Jeffrey Burke noted the band’s lyrics and recordings and dismissed the claim, stating that it infringed on the band’s right to freedom of speech. “There’s not a legal position that could be taken that would make Slayer responsible for the girl’s death. Where do you draw the line? You might as well start looking through the library at every book on the shelf,” he said. He also added that “Slayer lyrics are repulsive and profane. But they do not direct or instruct listeners to commit the acts that resulted in the vicious torture-murder of Elyse Pahler.” The judge stated that the lyrics to the songs appeared to be more descriptive than instructive, as the family of Elyse Pahler had previously claimed. He advised the Pahler family to rework the claim and try submitting it again, which they did, two more times, without success.


The three murderers were all in agreement that Slayer's music was the catalyst that propelled them to commit their crimes. “It was harmless at first. We used to smoke weed, play guitar, kick it. I was just into heavy-metal music.” said Delashmutt. He went on to mention that one day Fiorella asked, “If I’d be down for sacrificing a, whatever, a virgin. I didn’t take it seriously. I said ‘whatever’.”

More serious about committing the murder Fiorello stated, “It gets inside your head,” he told a  counselor a year after Pahler’s murder. “It’s almost embarrassing that I was so influenced by the music. The music started to influence the way I looked at things.” Almost as an afterthought in one interview, he added, “of course, I feel bad that she’s dead.” Jacob Delashmutt himself stated in a Washington Post interview that "The music is destructive but that's not why Elyse was murdered. She was murdered because Joe was obsessed with her, and obsessed with killing her."

“There probably was some sort of fantasy about Satan,” said Barry Post, who represents defendant Jacob Delashmutt, 17, “But people seem to forget that these are 15-years-olds growing up in Arroyo Grande. I don’t think there’s even a skating ring there.” By many accounts, the boys – then 15, 16 and 17 – were heavily into drugs, stoners who no longer attended the only public high school in this small agricultural town 15 miles south of San Luis Obispo. Royce Casey, 18 – the oldest of the three and the one who broke the case when he led investigators to Elyse’s skeletal remains – was attending continuation high school. Joseph Fiorella, 16 – thought to be the ringleader – was being taught at home. Delashmutt – the youngest of six children in a well-to-do family – had been expelled twice for possessing drugs and yelling obscenities at a teacher. Attorneys and family members declined to talk in any great detail about the crime because of a gag order. All records have been sealed in the Superior Court case.

There have been several other similar cases were music was blamed for tragedy:

Judas Priest, where teens entered into a suicide pact over the supposed subliminal lyrics of "DO IT". The case was dismissed once the troubled background of the boys came to light as opposed to the music that they listened to leading them to suicide..

Ozzy Osbourne, also was connected to a suicide pact when 3 teens killed themselves and one of the boys shot himself while listening to the song "Suicide Solution with the line thought to have said  “I tell you to end your life” was proven to actually be “I tell you to enjoy life”. Other cases in which suicide was attributed to Ozzy's music his albums were found near the body. The last case had a boy informing his father that Ozzy had "the solution" and then he shot himself.

All of these above mentioned cases were thrown out by the courts in favor of the First Amendment.

Father of slain teen Elyse Pahler takes plea deal in road-rage case
July 14, 2014
Road Rage

For a video concerning the case:
Elyse Pahler Video


If you wish to visit her grave and pay your respect, here is her grave location:
Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard, California. Plot: Sec: Annex 4 Lot: 83 Sp: N-C


Did the murderers act on Free Will or were they controlled and influenced by the lyrics and music of Slayer? Was Free Will responsible or was Determinism[2]?

[1] Merriam-Webster: Voluntary choice or decision <I do this of my own free will>. Freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

[2] From Dictionary.com the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.

(Chris Chaos is a long time resident of South Jersey who once again resides in and writes from Gloucester City, New Jersey. He is a filmmaker, a business owner, writer, urban explorer and investigator of the odd and weird, a proud parent, happily taken and a connoisseur of hot wings. Chris can be reached at AxisVideo@aol.com)