Slayer, Label Liable For Murder? Judge Demands More Evidence

Parents of victim claim band, label marketed harmful music to impressionable youth; plaintiffs have 60 days to re-file.

A lawsuit claiming Slayer and their record label are partially to blame for the 1995 ritual murder of a 15-year-old girl hit a stumbling block this week in a San Luis Obispo, California, superior courtroom.

Plaintiffs David and Lisanne Pahler, the parents of victim Elyse Pahler, accuse the band and Columbia Records, Sony Music, and other industry and label entities associated with the group of violating the California business and professions code by marketing and distributing harmful and obscene products to minors — specifically by intentionally marketing "Death Metal" to "severely emotionally disturbed adolescents," according to the official complaint.

In a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday, Judge Jeffrey Burke ruled that the plaintiffs had not presented sufficient evidence to take the case to a civil trial, the Pahlers' attorney Allen Hutkin said Wednesday.

The plaintiffs now have 60 days to either re-file their complaint — with additional evidence to support how exposure to heavy metal music impacts mentally developing children, pursuant to the judge's suggestion — or present an entirely new one.

The parents of the three convicted killers, who are serving sentences of 25 years to life in three separate California prisons, are also named as defendants in the suit for inadequately supervising their children who, according to a homicide investigation following the discovery of Pahler's body, indulged in drinking and drug use, truancy, the torture of animals, and "bizarre and often criminal activity involving satanic worship practices ... evidenced by their attire, bedroom decoration, and school materials," among other offenses.

Additional defendants named in the suit include American Recordings, Rick Rubin, and the band's various producers, other record companies, publishing companies, distribution companies, and "related businesses associated with producing, marketing, publishing, dissemination, distribution, and/or sale of Slayer albums, lyrics, and other materials relating to Slayer," according to the complaint.

In their admission statement, Royce Casey, Jacob Delashmutt and Joseph Fiorella — all minors when the incident took place — claimed they were following specific instructions found in Slayer songs such as "Altar of Sacrifice," "Kill Again," "Tormentor" and "Necrophiliac" when they stalked, raped, tortured and murdered Pahler on July 22, 1995.

The boys believed that after performing these acts, they'd receive the power to lead their own death metal band, Hatred, to success, citing the lyrics to Slayer's "Born of Fire," which read, "Spewing out death with the evil I've churned ... Love turns to lust the sensations I've felt/ Exploring the pleasures of sin/ Making the best of the cards I've been dealt/ adjusting the odds so I win."