Woman sentenced to more than six years for death of Morro Bay pastor

Emily Bales


A Los Osos woman who struck and killed a Morro Bay pastor while driving intoxicated was sentenced to state prison for six years and four months on Monday, though she could quickly be appearing before a parole board. [Tribune]

On Nov. 18, 2018, Emily Bales, 25, was driving drunk on Ramona Avenue in Los Osos when she struck and killed Pastor Dale Paulsen of the Morro Bay Presbyterian Church, who was taking a walk. Hours before his death, Paulsen announced to his congregation that he planned on retiring. 

Before getting behind the wheel and attempting to drive home, Bales was drinking with friends at a bar. Bales was texting, in addition to driving drunk, when the crash occurred, according to court testimony.

Following the crash, Bales fled the scene.

On Sept. 18, Bales pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence but with a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of the crash. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed two charges related to the DUI resulting in death and one count of hit-and-run resulting in injury. 

Then on Monday, San Luis Obispo Judge Craig van Rooyen sentenced Bales to six years and four months behind bars. Van Rooyen noted Bales’s sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene alone equates to five years in prison.

But under state law, Bales will be eligible to go before a parole board after about one year, according to the district attorney’s office.

Pastor Dale Paulsen

During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Danielle Baker said in a statement that Bales chose to leave Paulsen dead on the side of the road like an animal and her crimes were not just a terrible mistake.

However, Paulsen’s son, Andrew Paulsen, and sister, Lynne Paulsen, delivered a victim impact statement in which they said the family has forgiven Bales. Lynne Paulsen said she hopes Bales turns the catastrophe into something positive.

Dale Paulsen is survived by his widow, three sons and seven grandchildren, the family said in the statement. 

Bales’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said his client met with Paulsen’s widow on Friday. The pastor’s widow previously filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bales, which was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount on Aug. 15.

A restitution hearing in the criminal case is scheduled for Jan. 27.