Father of murdered teen says PTSD led to alleged road rage, police report says

David Pahler of Arroyo Grande has been charged with misdemeanor battery and vandalism

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comMarch 12, 2014 

Elyse Pahler

An Arroyo Grande man whose daughter was the victim of a horrific murder in 1995 said his post-traumatic stress disorder led him to commit road rage, according to a police report.

David Pahler, 66, has been charged with misdemeanor battery and vandalism for an incident that occurred in Arroyo Grande on Dec. 23.

Pahler’s daughter, Elyse, was 15 when three teens, aged 14, 15, and 16, lured her into a eucalyptus grove in Nipomo, where they strangled, stomped and stabbed her to death in what prosecutors described as a satanic killing.

Five years after the murder, David Pahler told a group of prisoners at the California Men’s Colony that his family had undergone considerable counseling. But, Pahler told police, he has post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — that causes him to lose his temper.

Pahler, whose pre-trial conference was postponed Wednesday, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Darren Murphy, said he did not want to comment on the case or Pahler’s claim of suffering from PTSD.

“I haven’t really discussed a diagnosis like that with him or anything at all,” Murphy said. “This is the very beginning stages of his case.”

According to an incident report filed by the Arroyo Grande Police Department, the following occurred on Dec. 23:

Pahler was driving on East Grand Avenue when a man driving a Honda Civic, with his wife as a passenger, turned in front of Pahler so that he was forced to slam on his brakes. Pahler followed the vehicle into the parking lot at Rite Aid.

After the 37-year-old driver of the Civic parked, Pahler began yelling and banging on a window. When the driver refused to open his door, Pahler struck the door at least twice with his knee, leaving dents in the vehicle. Pahler then opened the door and pulled the driver out by his shirt. As the driver began to call police, Pahler shoved him.

An employee from a nearby business said he took video of the incident, which showed Pahler also confronting the female passenger. The witness and his co-workers feared Pahler might actually hit the woman.

Pahler has no criminal history in this county.

PTSD is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced a traumatic of terrifying event, according to the WebMD website. PTSD can cause shock, anger, fear and guilt.

Researchers have recently noted that veterans with PTSD are more prone to commit acts of road rage and unsafe driving. According to a 2010 report, prepared by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine and VA Palo Alto Health Care System, risky driving was common among male veterans in residential treatment for PTSD. According to the New York Times, researchers in Palo Alto are developing therapies for people with PTSD who are frequently angry behind the wheel.

Elyse Pahler, a freshman at Arroyo Grande High School, disappeared from her family’s home on July 22, 1995. She was missing for eight months when Royce Casey, then 17, confessed that he was involved in her murder.

Casey and two others, Joseph Fiorella and Jacob Delashmutt, had been in a band called Hatred and reportedly killed Pahler as a satanic sacrifice to improve their ability to play death metal music. Stabbed more than a dozen times, Elyse Pahler called out to her mother and God as she bled to death, according to court testimony.

The three teens were all convicted of murder and given life prison terms.

The Pahlers unsuccessfully sued the heavy metal band Slayer in a highly publicized case, saying the band’s lyrics motivated the teens to commit the crime.


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