Intoxicated woman texting during fatal Los Osos crash

May 16, 2019

Emily Bales

A 25-year-old woman was texting and intoxicated when she struck and killed a Morro Bay pastor in Los Osos last year, according to testimony in a court hearing on Wednesday. [Tribune]

On Nov. 18, 2018, Pastor Dale Paulsen, 67, was walking in the 500 block of Ramona Avenue at about 5:30 p.m. when he was struck by a Toyota Tacoma pickup driven by Emily Bales of Los Osos, according to the CHP. The crash dislodged Paulsen’s skull from his spinal cord, and it caused the pastor’s body to launch on top of a 5-foot-tall row of shrubs, according to testimony at the hearing, which concluded with a judge ruling enough evidence exists for the case to proceed to trial.

Prosecutors have charged Bales with vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run resulting in death. Bales has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Over the course of four hours leading up to the crash, Bales drank five beers and a beer sample at Baywood Tavern in Los Osos, CHP Officer Fidencio Rueda testified. Rueda reviewed surveillance footage from the bar and interviewed the bartender in order to determine the amount of alcohol Bales’ consumed, he testified.

Witnesses said Bales fled the scene of the crash in her pickup. About 35 minutes following the collision, Sheriff’s Senior Deputy John Penaflor stopped Bales’ truck on South Bay Boulevard in Los Osos.

Bales told Penaflor she was planning on turning herself in and that she had consumed one beer an hour prior. But, Bales later told Rueda she consumed three to four beers, the CHP officer testified.

A breathalyzer test showed Bales had a blood alcohol level of .13. Bales registered a .12 blood alcohol level upon taking a second test.

Pastor Dale Paulsen

Rueda also testified that Bales told him she was texting at the time of the crash, so she did not see what happened and she thought she might have struck a pole. Witnesses estimated Bales was driving 40 to 45 mph at the time of the crash.

Joye Carter, the sheriff’s forensics pathologist, testified Paulsen suffered an internal decapitation of his neck and spine, as well as rib fractures, a pelvis fracture and other injuries. Carter said Paulsen died of multiple blunt-force traumatic injuries.

Ilan Funke-Bilu, Bales’ attorney, questioned Rueda and Penaflor about his client’s demeanor following the accident. Rueda said Bales was nervous and scared, while Penaflor testified Bales was completely cooperative and remorseful.

Shortly before his death, Paulsen announced he was retiring from Morro Bay Presbyterian Church after serving as its pastor for nearly 24 years. Paulsen was a resident of Los Osos.

Bales is scheduled for an arraignment hearing on June 3.


Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows getting behind the wheel after drinking and/or While texting is a disaster waiting to happen. The young Poly student, the pastor, the woman coming back from the music festival…. it goes on and on seemingly without restraint leaving in its wake unbelievable sorrow and pain. We all know someone or of someone destroyed by this madness. While everyone is constitutionally entitled to a criminal defense it will continue to wreak havoc while people get off or sidestep the consequences. But that’s what defense lawyers get paid for and pay handsomely for billboard advertising. Suspended jail sentences, continued driving privileges, reduced fines….and whatever excuses necessary to keep people who drink behind the wheel ( “Well I have to work, my kids need to go to school, it wasn’t my fault, or their brain isn’t fully developed at 20 something to fully understand….whatever) It’s almost become expected and over time the shear seriousness of drinking or texting behind the wheel is diminished. Someone in my own family while not having caused harm to another has somehow avoided jail for this. While we can’t prevent all tragedies like this, we can certainly let the teeth and pain of the law work to prevent some. So so sad….so very unnecessary and sad.


She’s got the money to hire Ilan, ergo she’s the real victim, like SLO City building inspector. She was just defending herself against the pastor who was encroaching into her space. There is something wrong with the system. Thank God Ilan did not become a judge. He does enough injustice manipulating jurors.


Do I got this right with the story, it says that his skull and spinal cord was dislodged from his body and his body flew over a 5-foot bush? Unbelievable, truly horrible can’t imagine something like this could happen.


Maybe Ilan can make the case that his skull and spinal cord were not properly attached to his body before the incident.


Do the crime, do the time. So sad. I expect we’ll see more of these.