If you’ve ever seen the 2009 horror comedy Jennifer’s Body, you know it has a pretty unforgettable storyline. Megan Fox stars as a high schooler who becomes demonically possessed when a rock band botches an attempt to sacrifice her to Satan. Afterwards, she takes revenge on her male classmates by going on a bloody killing spree and picking them off one by one.
Critical reception was lukewarm upon the movie’s release, but it’s since gained a cult following and new appreciation among viewers for its feminist spin on horror tropes. Additionally, armchair detectives have noticed the film bears some surprising similarities to the real-life murder of Elyse Pahler—a case as baffling as it is tragic.
Fifteen-year-old Elyse Pahler lived in Arroyo Grande, California, a city with a high crime rate and significant gang activity. On July 22, 1995, she was invited to meet up with fellow teens Jacob Delashmutt, Royce Casey, and Joseph Fiorella to smoke marijuana in a nearby eucalyptus grove.
But the boys had other plans. When Elyse let her guard down and began feeling the effects of the marijuana, Delashmutt removed his belt and used it to strangle her. Casey held the girl down while she struggled; meanwhile, Fiorella pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the neck multiple times. Eventually the other two took turns with the blade. If that wasn’t horrific enough, they raped her lifeless body. The boys left Elyse’s body in the grove, but they would return more than once to sexually assault her corpse.
The murder was planned in advance, and was purportedly intended to be a ritual sacrifice. The boys later said that they believed that in return for the murder, they would receive enough power from the Devil for their death metal band to become famous. At school, the boys openly bragged to acquaintances about committing murder and necrophilia, but nobody took them seriously. Elyse’s body remained in the grove for eight long months, and was finally recovered in March of 1996.
The autopsy revealed that the 15-year-old had been stabbed more than 12 times, yet none of the individual wounds were fatal. Instead, the cause of death was blood loss stemming from her injuries. The authorities had no idea who was responsible for the disturbing crime and initially believed it might be the work of a local gang.
The case finally broke open when Royce Casey had a change of heart. After having practiced Satanism with his bandmates, Casey converted to Christianity and confessed to his crimes. He also told the authorities that the bandmates planned on committing more murders, saying that Elyse “wouldn’t be the only one, there would be others.” Casey feared they were planning on killing him, too.
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People in the area were baffled by the crime, not understanding how three boys between the ages of 14 and 16 could have committed such a vile act. When the boys professed adoration for the music of legendary metal band, Slayer, the band became a scapegoat for the horrific crime. Elyse’s parents, David and Lisanne Pahler, filed a lawsuit against the band, claiming that the songs “Postmortem” and “Dead Skin Mask” had given the boys the actual instructions to torture, rape, and murder their daughter.
However, the judge threw out their case, stating, “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.” The Pahlers filed a second lawsuit against Slayer, but that case was also dismissed.
The murder was premeditated, and one has to wonder why the boys chose Elyse to be their victim. Chillingly, they had tried to kill her once before by luring her to the bottom of a ravine. They had intended to stab her then, but lost their nerve.
The killers’ victim selection turned out to be every bit as baffling as the murder itself. Casey told prosecutors that Elyse "had blond hair and blue eyes and because she was a virgin, she would be a perfect sacrifice for the devil." He added that she was the “ultimate sin against God” and a bonafide “ticket to hell” for the boys.
All three boys pled no contest to the murder charges and were sentenced to 25 years to life. To date, Elyse’s murder continues to be one of the most disturbing cases of ritual sacrifice out there. After a few years in prison, Delashmutt cast doubt on their supposedly satanic motives when he told The Washington Post, “The music is destructive…that’s not why Elyse was murdered. She was murdered because Joe [Fiorella] was obsessed with her and obsessed with killing her.”
With violent bandmates, a victimized teenage girl, and a satanic cult, there are clear parallels between this chilling case and the horror movie Jennifer’s Body. Although there are some profoundly silly elements to the movie, there’s something undeniably satisfying about seeing a teenage girl turn the tables and take the power back from her tormentors—something that Elyse Pahler unfortunately never had the opportunity to do.
Credit for main photo: Wikipedia