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Los Osos woman pleads not guilty in death of local pastor

Posted at 10:14 AM, Jan 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-02 21:16:42-05

The Los Osos woman facing vehicular manslaughter and other charges in connection with the death of a local pastor late last year made her first court appearance Wednesday in connection with the case.

Emily Bales sat next to her parents in a San Luis Obispo courtroom and appeared calm during her arraignment where she pleaded not guilty. Her grandparents were also in attendance.

The California Highway Patrol says Bales was driving drunk when she struck Dale Paulsen, who was reportedly walking along the shoulder of Ramona Avenue in Los Osos on the evening of Nov. 18.

In court Wednesday, it was revealed that her BAC at the time of the collision was .13. She had reportedly been drinking at a bar with friends before getting into her car and driving home.

Paulsen, 67, was the pastor of Morro Bay Presbyterian Church and had announced to the congregation that morning his plans to retire. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Bales was arrested a short time later.

Emily Bales
Emily Bales


Along with vehicular manslaughter, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office says the vehicular manslaughter charge against Bales includes a special allegation that she fled the scene of the crash.

“She recognized her errors almost immediately after she got home,” said defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu.

Bales also faces charges of driving under the influence causing injury with special allegations of inflicting great bodily harm.

If convicted, Bales, who was 24 at the time of the crash, faces up to nine years in state prison.

She is currently out of custody after posting bail following her arrest.

Prosecutors on Wednesday asked the judge to increase her bail citing a threat to public safety, but the judge denied that request.

“She’s not a wealthy woman,” said Funke-Bilu, adding that Bales is not currently driving and is going to counseling.

She is due back in court on Jan. 28.

Emily Bales appears in a San Luis Obispo courtroom for her arraignment on Jan. 2, 2019. (KSBY photo)