Is Jennifer’s Body Based on a True Story?

When you watch a horror film, it can sometimes leave you with a sense of fear or dread. Our only consolation is that we can tell ourselves that what we just watched isn’t real, that it never actually happened.

But what if it was real and did actually happen?

There are times when you watch a horror movie and you receive the initial message or warning that what you are about to watch is based on actual events that occurred, that the macabre images you’re witnessing onscreen befell some unfortunate soul. 

Then there are other times when a film is not so upfront about its origins. Rather than adapt the true story for the screen, the film draws inspiration from a real-life event to create an original tale.

We at Horror Facts have previously looked at films that claim to be based on a true story, but now we wanted to look at one that may or may not be based on a real-life event.

The Film

In 2009, the world was introduced to Jennifer’s Body, a horror comedy from the mind of Diablo Cody that starred Megan Fox in the titular role of Jennifer, who, after turning into a succubus, starts eating her male classmates.

I know it seems impossible to believe that a movie about a popular high school cheerleader becoming a succubus after she is sacrificed to Satan by a band seeking fortune and fame is in any way based on actual events, but somewhere mixed in all that fiction might be a grain of truth.

In this article, we are going to examine the real-life murder of 15-year-old Elyse Pahler, a young girl who, like Jennifer, was sacrificed in a Satanic ritual on July 22, 1995, by Jacob Delashmutt (15), Joseph Fiorella (14), and Royce Casey (16), who were all members of a local metal band named “Hatred” and who all wanted to break into the music industry.

Could this real-life murder be the inspiration behind Jennifer’s sacrifice in the film? Many people seem to think so, though not Diablo Cody herself. She has never once publicly claimed that the film is inspired by the murder of Elyse Pahler.

What we at Horror Facts want to give you is all the facts of the case. Then we’ll leave the decision of whether Jennifer’s Body is inspired by a real-life event or if this story is simply a fabrication of Hollywood up to you.

So, join us as we seek to uncover the truth…because sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Below is a collection of the series of events that led up to Elyse Pahler’s murder. The information has been collected through newspaper articles, court documents, and author Wensley Clarkson’s book ‘In the Name of Satan: A True Story of Human Sacrifice, Devil Worship, and Murder.’ 

Obsession With the Occult

Months before the murder of Elyse Pahler, Fiorella had become infatuated with the occult, particularly Satanism. Reportedly, Fiorella had a large collection of books dedicated to the subject of the occult and several pamphlets by Aleister Crowley.

Fiorella would continue to build on his fascination with the occult until, eventually, he began to talk about Satanism with his two friends, and it wasn’t long until he piqued their interest in the topic. Once it was evident that he had his friends’ attention, Fiorella’s obsession with the occult grew, and he would read excerpts from his growing library as a means of further enthralling them with the subject.

Like Fiorella, Delashmutt’s fascination with the occult and Satanism began to develop to the point where the two even became card carrying members of The Church of Satan. This membership to the church allowed them access to the library’s numerous online books on the topic of Satan and Satanism. Soon, the two boys became obsessed with this notion of gaining their ticket to Hell. 

Fueling this obsession with the occult was also the group’s love of death metal music, particularly the band Slayer. According to a statement given by Delashmutt to the Washington Post, “It was harmless at first. We used to smoke weed, play guitar, kick it. I was just into heavy-metal music.”

For Fiorella, though, it seemed his interest in Slayer went beyond a love of their music. Fiorella seemed to find a hidden, deeper meaning in their lyrics. According to an official report filed in court a year after the murder, in speaking about the music, Fiorella told a police counselor, “It gets inside your head. It’s almost embarrassing that I was so influenced by the music. The music started to influence the way I looked at things.”

Along with his obsession with Satanism and his unhealthy interpretation of Slayer’s music, Fiorella became enthralled with the idea of sacrificing a virgin. According to the same Washington Post article, on one particular day, Fiorella asked Delashmutt “If I’d be down for sacrificing a –whatever—a virgin.” In response to his question, Delashmutt noted that he “didn’t take it seriously” and stated, “Whatever.”

But soon, the idea of ritual sacrifice would become the topic of every one of their discussions, and Fiorella knew exactly who he wanted to sacrifice.

Photo of Elyse Pahler

Fiorella’s Obsession With Elyse

Along with Satanism, Fiorella began to become obsessed with Elyse. Attending the same school as Elyse, Fiorella, and Delashmutt had numerous run-ins with her, with Delashmutt even sharing some of the same classes with Elyse. Along with classes, Delashmutt also attended group counseling sessions with Elyse at the Mariposa Community Recovery Center, where she was sent after her parents found cannabis in her room.

Their interactions were merely superficial because Elyse believed the duo to be strange, and according to author Wensley Clarkson in his book, In the Name of Satan, Elyse even described Delashmutt as being a “complete weirdo.”

Despite Elyse barely giving the two the time of day, this didn’t stop Fiorella from his pursuit of Elyse.  Wensley Clarkson notes that, in his growing obsession with Elyse, Fiorella would sit on his bike across the street outside her home. He reportedly would repeat this action on numerous occasions over the course of weeks. But rather than finding this disturbing, Elyse brushed off his actions as harmless, figuring that Fiorella merely had a crush on her and his hanging around was his awkward way of relaying this message.

But Fiorella’s attraction to Elyse was anything but innocent; he had selected her to be his sacrifice. 

During the preliminary hearing, Royce Casey would tell the District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator Doug Odom that, a month before the murder, the three boys would sit around playing death metal and actively discussing their plans to sacrifice Elyse Pahler to Satan.

According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Casey also revealed to prosecutors that Elyse was chosen because “She had blond hair and blue eyes and because she was a virgin, she would be a perfect sacrifice for the devil.”

Despite claiming that it was the music that had inspired him to kill Elyse, it was clear to his friends that Fiorella’s motivation was his obsession with the young girl. In the Washington Post article, Delashmutt stated “The music is destructive, [but] that’s not why Elyse was murdered. She was murdered because Joe [Fiorella] was obsessed with her, and obsessed with killing her.”

An Initial Attempt On Her Life

According to the article in the Tribune, the trio had made an attempt at killing Elyse prior to her murder. In the article, it notes that the three of them managed to convince Pahler to come with them, along with the boys’ friend Travis Williams, to a spot on the Nipomo Mesa, where Williams pretended to slip down a steep ravine in an attempt to trick Pahler to the bottom.

He added that Fiorella then unsheathed a knife and tossed it to Willams. As the boy held the knife, Fiorella and Delashmutt then started to repeatedly yell, “Do it, do it,” but Williams was unable to act, finding himself frozen in fear.     

The article additionally notes that Casey stated, “Elyse Pahler must have thought they were joking around and didn’t report it.”

Wensley Clarkson gives a different version of the events in his book. He writes that, while walking on her street, Elyse witnessed Fiorella and Delashmutt calling out for help. When she approached, they pointed to the bottom of a bank by the road and stated, “There’s a guy stuck down there. He’s broken his leg. We gotta help him.” When she peered over the edge, one of the boys pushed her and she fell into the bank, but due to the close proximity to her home, her mom happened to be walking by at the time of the incident.

Her presence caused the four boys to scatter and, after Elyse climbed out of the bank, her mother asked what had happened. Elyse told her mother what had just transpired. Allegedly that night, Elyse also revealed to her parents that “she thought the boys might have been stalking her for a few days,” but followed that up by stating, “They’re just stupid, mixed-up kids. They won’t do anything bad.”  

Clarkson notes that, following Elyse’s disappearance, her mother reported this incident to the police. Despite this, they never looked into the matter. That’s what makes this version of the story seem unlikely, as the local authorities would have followed up on this lead.   

The Night of the Murder

On July 21, 1995, Elyse had reportedly been at a house party where she ran into Delashmutt, Fiorella, Casey, and Williams.

Having previous knowledge of her fondness for smoking marijuana, Delashmutt told Elyse that they would be getting some “wicked weed” and asked if she would like to try some. Eager to try this weed, Elyse gave Delashmutt her phone number. 

According to Clarkson, the following evening of July 22, 1995, Elyse would receive a phone call from Delashmutt, who was calling from a nearby payphone at the Mesa View Market. He told Elyse that they had the marijuana and also some LSD, and arranged for her to meet them at the end of her street. Unbeknownst to Elyse at the time, Delashmutt was luring her to her death.

Clarkson also writes that, at that same moment, Casey happened to be coming into the market, where he was told by Delashmutt, “You won’t want to miss this.” The trio then headed toward the meet up spot. 

According to the Washington Post article, after receiving the phone call, Elyse slammed the phone down and stated “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” After saying goodnight to her family, Elyse headed to her room. What her family didn’t know at the time was that this would be the last time they would see her alive. Instead of going to bed, Elyse snuck out to meet up with Delashmutt, Fiorella, and Casey, thinking they would be smoking marijuana and partying for the night.

After meeting up with the trio, they headed to a nearby eucalyptus grove about a quarter mile from her house.  At the grove, the group of teens initially started smoking marijuana, but after about 15 to 20 minutes, the trio put their heinous plan into action.

The following is a series of events as described in the Court of Appeal of the State of California:

After 15 to 20 minutes, Delashmutt pulled off his belt and began to strangle Pahler. Fiorella pulled out a hunting knife and stabbed her four to six times in her neck. Delashmutt took the knife next and stabbed her four or five more times in her neck. Finally, Casey took the knife and stabbed her four times in her back. As Pahler moaned on the ground, Casey stomped on the back of her neck.

According to a statement Casey later gave to investigators, during the entire ordeal, Elyse “Was on the ground praying to God and calling for her mom.”

In total, they stabbed her twelve times. To make matters worse, during the autopsy, coroners discovered that none of the wounds were fatal, meaning that Elyse died of blood loss and not as a direct result of her injuries.

There are conflicting reports that after confirming that she was dead, the three boys began to defile her corpse. This cannot be officially confirmed as, due to the decomposition of the body, the evidence is not conclusive.

Royce Casey Confesses to Murder

Following the murder of Elyse, Casey started keeping a journal where he would document some of his tormented thoughts and feelings. Later on, authorities recovered this journal.

(Note: The below entries contain spelling and grammatical errors, but are written exactly as they were in Casey’s journal according to Clarkson)

In some of the entries, Casey wrote, “Fighting on the other side now where satans arised and shall conquer and reign.” In his journal, Casey also writes that “psycho cerial killers [need to] build an altar of sacrifice,” noting that “virgin meat is the ultimate sacrifice.”          

After a while, Casey started to distance himself from Delashmutt and Fiorella, and it wasn’t long until he eventually cut ties with the pair altogether.

Along with severing ties with his former friends, Casey also began to discover religion in the months following the murder, becoming a member of the New Life Ministry Church where he eventually converted to Christianity.

Casey would become a regular at the church and, according to Clarkson, one day in early March 1996, Casey spoke with a minister at his church about something terrible he had done. Although Casey didn’t confess, Clarkson notes that a few days later, the Arroyo Grande Police Department received a phone call from an anonymous caller stating, “I have some information about the missing schoolgirl, Elyse Pahler.” The caller would then state, “She’s dead,” before hanging up the phone.  

An undisclosed amount of time later, Casey returned to the church and began to open up more about Elyse’s murder. According to the Washington Post article, Casey confessed his crime to a priest, who convinced Casey that he needed to turn himself in.

Finally, on March 13th, 1996, eight months after the murder, Casey could no longer live with the guilt of what he did and decided to walk into the Arroyo Grande Police Station and confess to the murder of Elyse Pahler.

During his confession, he claimed that another reason he decided to turn himself in was that he feared for his own safety. According to the Tribune, Casey testified that he believed Delashmutt and Fiorella would kill again, stating that they told him, “She wouldn’t be the only one. There would be others.” He was convinced that they were referring to him.

Following his initial confession, Casey led authorities to the remains of Elyse Pahler. Finally, after eight months of walking free, Elyse’s murderers would be brought to justice.

It didn’t take authorities long to arrest Delashmutt and Fiorella. Both boys were brought in and, along with Casey, were questioned by District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator Doug Odom.

In the same Tribune article, it also notes that, when asked by Odom why he and his friends committed the murder, Casey stated that, “It was to receive power from the devil to help them play guitar better.”

During the trial, Odom would testify that Casey revealed to him that, “By making this perfect sacrifice to the devil they would gain more craziness, or nuts, as he said.” Odom also stated, “That would make them play harder, play faster. And by making this perfect sacrifice to the Devil it might help them go, quote, professional.”

Joseph Fiorella, Jacob Delashmutt, and Royce Casey all pleaded no contest to the murder of Elyse Pahler.

Fiorella was sentenced to 26 years to life, with Delashmutt also receiving the same sentence of 26 years to life. For his part in Elyse’s murder, Casey was sentenced to 25 years to life. 

Where Are They Now

Casey was first up for parole in July 2016, but his parole was denied. He was then eligible for parole again in July 2019, and he was, once again, denied.

But, on March 17, 2021, the parole board sided in favor of Casey and found that he was suitable for parole after having served 23 years and three months of his life sentence.

This decision would be reversed by Governor Gavin Newsom in July 2021. He noted, “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.”

However, following an appeal by Casey’s lawyers, on June 06, 2022, Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen found in favor of Casey, noting that “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.” 

Select sources have claimed that this decision was again later overturned, ruling to deny Casey’s parole. At this time, there is no official record of Royce Casey having been released from custody and he is believed to still be incarcerated.

Both Joseph Fiorella and Jacob Delashmutt have appeared before the parole board but neither have ever been granted parole and both are still currently incarcerated.

Photo of Elyse Pahler’s Grave

Now that we have examined and presented all the facts to you the choice is up to you.

As we stated above, many people over the years have claimed that the film was inspired by this real-life tragedy, despite the fact that Diablo Cody herself has never once publicly claimed that the film was inspired in any way by the murder of Elyse Pahler.

Do you believe that this real-life murder was the inspiration behind Jennifer’s Body, or is it merely a coincidence that the film shares any similarities with the case? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and let us know what films you want us to examine next.  


Clarkson, Wensley. (2013). In the Name of Satan: A True Story of Human Sacrifice, Devil Worship, and
Murder. Macmillan

Elyse Pahler: Killed in Nipomo in 1995. (2010, April 14). San Luis Obispo Tribune.

In re Royce Casey, on Habeas Corpus. Baltodano. 1-13. (Court of Appeal of the State of California
Appellate District Division Six 2023).

Waxman, Sharon. (2001, January 23). Did ‘Death Metal’ Music Incite Murder? Washington Post.