Royce Casey, who was convicted of killing Arroyo Grande teen Elyse Pahler, is a step closer to freedom. A local superior court judge reversed the governor's decision to deny Casey parole.
It was a gruesome killing in 1995. According to court documents, 15-year-old Elyse Pahler was lured to a secluded area in Arroyo Grande by Jacob Delashmutt, Joe Fiorella and Royce Casey where she was stabbed between 12 and 15 times in the neck and back; at least four times by Casey.
“Very barbaric and callous, heinous and deplorable,” said Charles Carbone, Royce Casey’s attorney. “Like I said, we follow the law, but we also follow the heart and we realized the severity of the crime, that is number one. Number two, is that Royce Casey is a rehabilitated man.”
Based on the appeal, also known as order granting petition for writ of habeas corpus, the teens “became infatuated with death metal and discussed sacrificing a virgin as part of a devil-worshiping ritual.”
“It's tragic all around because not only did you lose Elyse who was this incredibly, wonderful person, but you had these three other boys who changed the course of their life by the horrible things they did by following these lyrics," said Allen Hutkin, attorney for the Pahler family.
On March 17, 2021, Royce Casey was granted parole.
San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to reverse the parole board’s decision.
On July 9, 2021, Governor Newsom reversed the parole.
“I have determined that Mr. Casey must do additional work to deepen his insight into the causative factors of his crime and coping skills before he can be safely released on parole,” Gov. Newsom said in the Indeterminate Sentence Parole Release Review.
Royce Casey’s legal team, led by Charles Carbone, appealed this decision through a document called writ of habeas corpus.
“Because of the crime, not because of who Royce is today, the governor opposed the release and that is just not in accord with the law,” explained Carbone. “Royce Casey isn’t serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Obviously, he is serving one with the possibility of parole.”
On June 6, 2022, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen granted Casey’s petition.
“After review of the record, the Court cannot find evidence to support the Governor’s decision and, therefore, grants the requested relief and reinstates the Board’s grant of parole,” said Judge Van Rooyen in the order granting petition for writ of habeas corpus.
“The case probably wouldn’t even have been solved or likely would’ve gone unsolved without Royce coming forward very early on the case,” Carbone said.
Casey’s attorneys say he has turned his life around behind bars.
“He hasn’t committed any further crimes, he’s educated himself, he’s developed marketable skills, he has profound remorse and regret and shame; he counsels and mentors other prisoners inside,” Carbone added. “He is an exceptional person. His crime is forever deplorable, but he is not as a human being that same child that he once was when he committed the crime 27 years ago."
San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow disagrees with the outcome.
“While we respect the decision of Judge Van Rooyen, we are disappointed with the effect of the order,” Dow said. “We agree with the governor’s finding that Mr. Casey needs to demonstrate additional insight into the causative factors of his crime and coping skills before he can be safely released on parole.”
As for Pahler’s family, her death will continue to bring pain but they are not opposing Casey's release.
“The family is prepared for Royce to be paroled. They know it is going to happen at some point. For the most part, the family is at peace with the decision,” Hutkin said. “Royce has been generally an honor inmate. He’s really tried to reform his life and make better of himself. Generally, there is no unanimity, but the family has accepted it.”
According to Carbone, the California Attorney General’s Office has 60 days to appeal this decision. If they decide not to, then a parole date will be set for Casey.
Attorney Allen Hutkin said the Pahler family strongly opposes any type of parole for Jacob Delashmutt and Joe Fiorella.