By JOSH FRIEDMAN
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has denied parole to a San Luis Obispo County man who, as a teenager, killed a 15-year-old Arroyo Grande High School student in what was initially planned as part of a satanic ritual.
Newsom’s ruling reverses a decision made in March by the California Board of Parole Hearings. The parole board had decided Royce Casey should be granted release from prison.
In 1995, Casey, then 17, murdered Arroyo Grande High School freshman Elyse Pahler, with help from accomplices Jacob Delashmutt, then 16, and Joseph Fiorella, then 15. The three conspirators made plans to kill Pahler, who was their friend, and to dismember, sexually violate and cannibalize her body as part of a satanic ritual.
The teens strangled and stabbed Pahler, and Casey stomped on her head and neck, killing her. However, they did not carry out the planned satanic ritual. Rather, they dragged Pahler’s body and tried to hide it before fleeing.
Casey later admitted that, after being stabbed and strangled, Pahler was on the ground crying out for her mother and for Jesus. When Casey heard that, he stomped on her neck and head.
In 1997, Casey submitted a plea in the case, and he was convicted of first-degree murder. He has been incarcerated for 24 years.
After the parole board decided Casey, now 43, should be granted release, SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow wrote a letter to Gov. Newsom urging him to reverse the decision. Casey has never adequately explained why he participated in a such a sadistic and heinous crime, Dow wrote in the letter to Newsom.
Newsom responded by concluding Casey must do additional work to deepen his insight into the factors that caused him to commit the crime, and he must develop coping skills before he can be safely released on parole.
“Mr. Casey and his crime partners brutally killed their young friend because they believed that a ritual sacrifice of a young virgin would help their musical abilities,” Newsom wrote in his decision to reject Casey’s parole. “This crime was not an impulsive act, but rather the (defendants) discussed and planned it over the course of several months. This is also not a case where Mr. Casey was controlled by others in the group and, in fact, the psychologist who evaluated him noted that, ‘he seems to have gone out of his way to associate with negative peers.’”