A 25-year-old woman was texting and intoxicated when she struck and killed a Morro Bay pastor in Los Osos last year, according to testimony in a court hearing on Wednesday. [Tribune]
On Nov. 18, 2018, Pastor Dale Paulsen, 67, was walking in the 500 block of Ramona Avenue at about 5:30 p.m. when he was struck by a Toyota Tacoma pickup driven by Emily Bales of Los Osos, according to the CHP. The crash dislodged Paulsen’s skull from his spinal cord, and it caused the pastor’s body to launch on top of a 5-foot-tall row of shrubs, according to testimony at the hearing, which concluded with a judge ruling enough evidence exists for the case to proceed to trial.
Prosecutors have charged Bales with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run resulting in death. Bales has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Over the course of four hours leading up to the crash, Bales drank five beers and a beer sample at Baywood Tavern in Los Osos, CHP Officer Fidencio Rueda testified. Rueda reviewed surveillance footage from the bar and interviewed the bartender in order to determine the amount of alcohol Bales’ consumed, he testified.
Witnesses said Bales fled the scene of the crash in her pickup. About 35 minutes following the collision, Sheriff’s Senior Deputy John Penaflor stopped Bales’ truck on South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos.
Bales told Penaflor she was planning on turning herself in and that she had consumed one beer an hour prior. But, Bales later told Rueda she consumed three to four beers, the CHP officer testified.
A breathalyzer test showed Bales had a blood alcohol level of .13. Bales registered a .12 blood alcohol level upon taking a second test.
Rueda also testified that Bales told him she was texting at the time of the crash, so she did not see what happened and she thought she might have struck a pole. Witnesses estimated Bales was driving 40 to 45 mph at the time of the crash.
Joye Carter, the sheriff’s forensics pathologist, testified Paulsen suffered an internal decapitation of his neck and spine, as well as rib fractures, a pelvis fracture and other injuries. Carter said Paulsen died of multiple blunt-force traumatic injuries.
Ilan Funke-Bilu, Bales’ attorney, questioned Rueda and Penaflor about his client’s demeanor following the accident. Rueda said Bales was nervous and scared, while Penaflor testified Bales was completely cooperative and remorseful.
Shortly before his death, Paulsen announced he was retiring from Morro Bay Presbyterian Church after serving as its pastor for nearly 24 years. Paulsen was a resident of Los Osos.
Bales is scheduled for an arraignment hearing on June 3.