A Los Osos woman who allegedly struck and killed a pastor from Morro Bay while driving under the influence in November pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of vehicular manslaughter, DUI and leaving the scene of an accident.
Emily Marie Bales, 25, is alleged to have caused the death of Dale Paulsen, who served as pastor of Morro Bay Presbyterian Church for nearly 24 years.
The 67-year-old Los Osos resident had just announced his retirement from the church that morning, a church elder previously told The Tribune. His last Sunday leading services was to have been Jan. 6.
On the evening of Nov. 18, 2018, Paulsen was walking on Ramona Avenue, east of Pine Avenue, according to the CHP. Bales was driving a 2015 Toyota Tacoma west on Ramona Avenue when police say her pickup truck hit Paulsen, who was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities a short time later.
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Bales initially fled but was later found and arrested.
She was released from jail custody Nov. 19 after posting $100,000 bail.
At her arraignment Wednesday, Bales was supported in court by her parents and other family members.
Following Bales’ not guilty pleas, Deputy District Attorney Nick Quincey requested that Judge Ginger Garrett increase her bail by $65,000, citing the seriousness of the alleged crime and an alleged risk to public safety.
Quincey told the judge that Bales had been drinking at a bar with friends before getting into her car to drive home. Quincey also revealed that her blood alcohol content was 0.13, well over the legal limit of 0.08.
But her attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, argued against the higher bail, telling Garrett that Bales hasn’t gotten behind the wheel since what he called “the accident” and noted that Bales is undergoing a voluntary “aggressive counseling regimen.” Funke-Bilu also told Garrett that Bales’ employer is standing by her, and she continues to work.
“This is an extraordinarily tragic, sad case,” he said, telling Garrett that Bales “recognized her errors (of leaving the scene) almost immediately after she got home” following the crash and that “nothing is gained” by increasing her financial burden as she continues through the court process.
Garrett denied Quincey’s request, noting that Bales has already posted $100,000 and has made two appearances so far in court.
“When public safety is a concern, in this type of case ... I have yet to be convinced that the extra amount of bail actually makes anyone safer,” Garrett said.
Bales is due back in court Jan. 28. If convicted of all charges, she faces up to nine years in state prison.