Satanic or ritualistic crime and murder

San Luis Obispo, USA - Fifteen year old Elyse Marie Pahler was "sacrificed to Satan" by three San Luis Obispo, CA teen-agers in one of the most grisly murders on record.

The suspects Roger Casey, Jacob Delashmutt and Joseph Fiorella -- all teenagers -- took Elyse to a hidden location about a quarter-mile from her home, fed her drugs, raped her, tied a belt around her neck "to make it easier to stab her", and offered her up as the "ultimate sin against God".

Elyse knew her killers from the school bus. Delashmutt, Fiorella and Elyse attended Arroyo Grande High School in San Luis Obispo, 195 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Delashmutt was expelled from the school in September of 1995; Fiorella left in February 1996 to be home-schooled. Casey attended a nearby school. The three stabbed the girl to death at at an alleged "Satanic altar". The boys "selected and stalked" Elyse believing that a virgin sacrifice would earn them a "ticket to Hell".

Elyse disappeared July 22, 1995 and had been reported missing until Casey came forward and led authorities to her body on March 14, 1996. The girl left her house voluntarily the night she died, although it wasn't clear where she was headed or at what point she encountered her killers. If the teenagers are tried as adults and the jury finds special circumstances, they face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If tried as juveniles, they face up to about 7 years in juvenile detention. < >

Some experts believe the Pahler murder proves their allegations that Satanic and ritualistic crimes are a very real problem in US society.

In spite of mankind's advances in the arts and sciences, there remains a number of people who have not been able to -- or refuse to -- shake-off the practices of pagan rituals, some of which date back thousands of years. Included within the broad spectrum of paganism are so-called Satanic cults which are suspect in a number of bizarre crimes throughout the United States.

According to investigative journalist and author Maury Terry, there exists a network of Satan-worshiping cults with members crisscrossing our nation. Terry, whose research takes him to just about every state of the union, participated in a special regional police conference in Ohio, co-sponsored by the American Federation of Police and the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

His expertise on the subject of ritualistic violence is a tremendous resource for the news media and law enforcement. This writer attended the conference as a result of violent incidents occurring in northern Manhattan -- my jurisdiction at the time; incidents involving animal sacrifices including the killing and mutilation of cats, dogs, chickens, and even a lamb stolen from a petting zoo.

The world of the Satanic cultist is filled with ritualistic violence, perverse sexual activity and abuse, Heavy Metal music and the use of illegal drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines (crank, speed, meth, crystal), psylocybin (an hallucinogenic drug similar to LSD), heroin and other others. This is a world which, even in the beginning of the 21st Century, continues to attract a large number of young people who follow the precepts of Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible, a volume that has millions of copies in print today.


It must be made clear to anyone investigating ritualistic crimes: what constitutes a Satanic cult? And what are the differences between these cults and Religious Satanists

Religious Satanists are members of a group which are well organized and structured with a hierarchy. A perfect example is Chicago's Temple of Set: a church that is recognized as a religion by the US and Illinois governments. They enjoy the same tax-exempt status as mainstream religious institutions. Surprisingly, the High Priest of the Temple of Set, Michael Aquino, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the in the US Army Reserves even while practicing his religion.

He is outspoken about his beliefs and has appeared on nationwide television (The Oprah Winfrey Show, for instance) to explain his faith and his church's practices. As far as police agencies are concerned, members of the Temple of Set have never violated the law when practicing their worship and liturgical rites including the Black Mass.

On the other hand, Satanic cults are self-styled Satanists who are sometimes involved in activity that strongly resembles college-fraternity hazing; and, as with college campus hazing, these practitioners may become extremely cruel and vicious, temporarily losing control. Their behavior mirrors the emotionally-charged, mindless behavior exhibited by angry mobs and rioters, with little or no thought to the consequences of their acts.

When substance abuse is added to the mix of these improvised rituals -- accentuated by loud, pulsating music coupled with the euphoric excitement of primal lust -- these frenzied pseudo-Satanists may indulge in behavior closely resembling the activities of a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Richard Ramirez (California's Hillside Strangler), two frightening serial-killers who openly displayed an unhealthy obsession with the occult. In several cases where the practitioners completely lost control, hapless victims fell prey to their bloodthirsty rituals and would suffer the pain of a helpless sacrificial lamb.

Although rare, reports from police departments across the country reveal that the Satanic cults may begin their worship service with the understanding that an animal or even a human being will be killed and used as a sacrifice to whomever these cult members worship. Murder is rare, but it is a possibility, especially when drugs such as crack, PCP and LSD are part of these dramatic events that are created by leaders and worshipers alike. Crack and the other substances are known to make some users extremely violent, fearless and/or dangerously paranoid and psychotic. Again, murders committed by groups of Satan worshipers are rare, but police officers and detectives investigating a crime scene or missing persons report should consider this avenue of investigation if evidence of the person's involvement with cults comes to light.

According to Ed Briggs, crime reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch , Satanic cults seduce teenagers and young adults with sex and drugs and the promise of power over others. Also, involvement in this religion is the ultimate in rebellion against parental control, especially if the parents are religious Christians, Jews, Muslims, or part of any mainstream religious organization including Religious Satanism which is recognized by the federal government as a legitimate religion deserving of all privileges enjoyed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. churches and temples.

As with their rebellion against parents and parental control, Satanic cult members thrive on their rebellious behavior against society in general. The cultist's perfidy is a source of pleasure for him or her, especially the teenager who may have been forced to attend mainline church services each week..

Then, according to Briggs, an award-winning newsman, there are times when ritualistic abuse is used to break down a young person's resistance. The unwilling recruit may be repeatedly raped or sodomized or worse -- acts of bestiality are performed.


How many Satanic practitioners are there in the US?

"The adherents of this violent [quasi-]religion number over 300,000, " claims Lieutenant Larry Jones of the Boise, ID Police Department.

"The kids become involved in sacrificial rituals, violent song lyrics, Satanic symbolism, suicide notes or recordings, all enhanced with illegal, mind-altering drugs, which play a major role [in the drama of a Black Mass]. And the added secrecy of the cult members makes estimating their numbers impossible." says Detective Jerry Simandl, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department and assigned to the Gang Crime Task Force.

Are there any estimates based on other information or police intelligence? The San Francisco Police Department's Sandi Gallant can only estimate that " ... at most 1% of Heavy-Metal music fans become seriously involved in the occult."

It should be pointed out that when Det. Gallant talks about Heavy-Metal music, she isn't referring to bands such as Guns & Roses, Metallica and other popular musicians, but to the sub-category of HM music known as Black Metal, played by bands that are truly underground with a limited audience. However, even the tamer, well-known Metal bands such as Blue Oyster Cult occasionally enter the domain of the Black Arts (witchcraft). Several years ago, two Long Island, NY teenagers committed suicide listening to the Blue Oyster Cult hit song Don't Fear the Reaper.


Readers should be warned that not all practitioners of Satanism are violent savages whose thirst for blood is insatiable. Those living the lifestyle of Satan-worshipers rarely commit murder and rape during their religious rituals. In fact. sadly, more people have been murdered in the name of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. than in the name of Satan.

However, there have been cases in which Satanism, the occult or involvement in the once popular game of Dungeons & Dragons proved fatal for the unsuspecting victim. One example of the total revolt against authority and parental control, and embracement of evil is a case in Bergen County, New Jersey: Thomas Sullivan, a 14 year-old Boy Scout repeatedly and methodically stabbed his mother to death before turning the weapon on himself, taking his own life. Investigation revealed an unhealthy obsession with Satan, Black Metal music, drugs and a morbid fascination with death. In this case, the actor was a loner whose Satanism was a personal and private matter, based almost entirely on what he saw on television or motion pictures.


During the course of these so-called religious rituals, drug use is usually rampant and heightens the frenzy and blood-lust of the cultists. According to Pat Pulling, a criminologist Who lectures police departments on the occult and Satanism, rituals may include:

- Victim is placed in a coffin or make-shift coffin.

- Paraphernalia and symbols such are pentagrams, 666 symbols, inverted crosses, etc.

- Heavy feeding of drugs, especially hallucinogens.

- Kidnapping victims.

- Sexual abuse aimed at confusing a recruit and destroying his/her moral foundation.

- Incestuous sex acts (family is involved in the cult).

- Animal or (rarely) human sacrifice.

- Cannibalism.

- Cremation (destruction of victim along with evidence).

There is considerable ritual abuse during Satanic ceremonies. Indoctrination of the young is the purpose of much of this abuse. Ritual abuse is defined as repeated physical, emotional, mental and spiritual assaults combined with a systematic use of symbols, ceremonies and images designed to turn a person against himself and society. Drugs, again, are utilized during this process of systematic degradation.

A dramatic and arguably frightening part of Satanic religious practices is the so-called Black Mass. It is a rite dating back to the 14th Century Europe and a large part of the Satanic revival of 19th Century France. The ceremony, as practiced by self-styled, makeshift Satanic groups -- as opposed to, say, the Temple of Set, a legitimate religious organization -- is derived from the Roman Catholic or Episcopal mass with Satan the object of worship and praise. There are reports that in some cult-masses, the altar is the nude body of a young woman and the gold chalice may contain a bizarre and nauseating mixture of blood, urine and turnips. There are groups who add an hallucinogenic drug such as psylosybin or methamphetamines.

During the Black Mass, at least as it's performed by self-styled Satanic groups, animal sacrifices are commonplace and sexual experimentation follows large doses of illegal drugs. Although there have been reports of human sacrifices, especially infanticide, these incidents are extremely rare. Those claiming they are not rare but routine say that the infants used in the monstrous ceremony is one that has been conceived and raised just for the purpose of ritual murder. These police officers -- Sandi Gallant among them -- say that birth records of these babies do not exist since the children are born using midwife who's a member of the group or even a physician-member. Children born into a cult are called Generationals.


Who is drawn to this religion? Who gets involved in demonic activity? Well, a profile was developed by Pat Pulling, the leading expert in this area of psychology. The profile is similar in structure to those developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Behavioral Science Unit. In fact, the creator of the Criminal Profiling System, Special Agent Robert Ressler, during his interviews with over 100 serial-killers and unusually violent criminals, found elements of the occult in the psyche of a few of these killers. Most notable is the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, although his involvement in the occult was all but totally ignored. (I interviewed the man who coined the term serial killer, Robert Ressler, in the book Crime Talk still available at

The yet to be captured psychopathic murderer known as the Zodiac Killer is another example of a dabbler in the occult creating his own makeshift quasi-religion. However, these two men were loners and not part of any group, although Maury Terry claims there is a connection between Son of Sam and a few groups in this nation's heartland. Pat Pulling, one expert who believes -- as does Maury Terry -- in a transcontinental network, created a Ressler-styled profile for men and women likely to become involved in Satanic cults or a profile for people who are, because of their psychological makeup, susceptible to cult recruiting tactics:

- Adolescents from white, middle-class and upper-middle class homes.

- Above average intelligence but easily bored with schoolwork.

- Over- or under-achievers.

- Creative and curious.

- Some have a history of family abuse or sexual abuse.

- Rebellious teens or those with low self-esteem seeking power over others.

How do young people become involved? (Take Note: the following are opinions of so-called experts.)

- Through so-called Black-Metal music, most successful being Venom. Some of the more popular bands such as Ozzy Osbourne (of Black Sabbath fame) may touch on

Satan and evil, but they are entertainers, not cult recruiters).

- Fantasy role-playing in games such as Dungeons & Dragons. A surprisingly large number of homicides and suicides have been linked to D & D such as the Joseph Vite case in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the Juan Kimbrough case in Oakland, California. Both were murdered as part of a game of D& D.

- An unhealthy obsession with movies, books and videos about Satanism and the Black Arts (witchcraft).

- Involvement with Satanists at a rock concert or party (college campuses are ripe for recruiters). The promise of sex and drugs is an attractive incentive.

- Involvement with classmates heavily into occult, Satanism or serious fantasy role-playing.


Investigation and prosecution are very difficult since Satanic crimes are cloaked in secrecy. It is estimated that on a small percentage of these criminal acts are ever exposed and even when the murder case uncovers perps, there is no indication of the crime being religion-inspired.

In addition, the profile of Satanic cult members indicates that they are quite intelligent and therefore adept at hiding pertinent evidence. They may even go as far as manipulating the crime scene in order to throw off investigating detectives. Because illegal drugs are very often part of their modus operandi , these cultists are doubly careful in avoiding the attention of police agencies.

Testimony given by victims are insufficient to bring cases to trial and prosecutors and district attorneys are hard to convince. According to Lieutenant Lawrence Haike of the Richmond, VA Police Department's detective bureau, "Short of commission of a crime, ritualistic [perps] are protected under the US Constitution's protection of freedom of religion...and in Satanism freedom of religion is just one step across the line from murder."

According to Detective Sandi Gallant of the San Francisco PD, there are many problems with investigation and prosecution of ritualistic crime cases. In her police training program -- offered to police agencies across the country and with a waiting list of over a year -- Detective Gallant offers the following list of case difficulties and legal roadblocks:

- Investigators disregard original statements regarding rituals and Satanism; therefore detectives and officers only document the outward appearances of the crime such as sexual abuse.

- No physical evidence is found to substantiate statements given by victims or former cult members.

- Crime scenes are never found.

- Crime scenes are found, but do not fit the descriptions given.

- Crime victims are interviewed together in the presence of parents or legal guardians. They may be ashamed to discuss their victimization in front of them or they are terrified to discuss the case because their parents or guardians are part of the cult.

- The suspects and the news media become aware of the case prematurely.

- Because of the illegal drugs involved, it may be difficult for investigators to believe the statements made by victims or former cultists, especially when drugs such as LSD and psylosybin are involved.

- There is an inability to establish a corpus delecti ("body of the crime"):

- Although murders are reported, no bodies are found (Satanists believe in cremation).

- Even though children claim they saw other children who were kidnapped, no record can be found with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or with the FBI.

- The prosecutor wishes to downplay the Satanic or occult nature of the crime in order to avoid problems with witness credibility, etc.

- The statements of victims and witnesses may appear outlandish and the reputation of the accused may appear impeccable.

Investigators arriving at the crime scene of a homicide or suicide should remain open-minded with regard to possible ritualism or Satanic connections to the crime. The crime scene should be searched for any evidence linking the crime to occult activity. If such activity is suspected, chances are drugs may be involved.

According to Satanic Cult expert, Maury Terry, "Satanism in some cases is merely a by-product -- the real motivation of cult leaders is drugs and drug distribution."