Santa Paula Times

Jury selection to begin in trial of accused slayer of Samuel Reeves Jr.

February 24, 2012
Santa Paula News

It was almost nine years ago that a popular Santa Paula teenager was gunned down at a birthday party, and jury selection will start next week for a man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Samuel Travis Reeves Jr.

Joe “Joey” Fidel Flores, 31 of Santa Paula, was in court Tuesday for discussions related to the start of his trial on charges of murdering Reeves on October 11, 2003, using a firearm in the commission of the crime and committing the crime for the benefit of a street gang.

Flores was arrested in July 2009 at Ventura County Jail, where he was in custody on two unrelated firearm charges. The following December, District Attorney Greg Totten announced his office would not seek the death penalty.

Reeves was only 15 when he attended the party on a ranch east of the city, where he was among more than 300 partygoers. Several fights broke out at about midnight, and during the melee Reeves - a popular SPHS student and skateboarder who attended the party with his brothers - was fatally shot once in the chest.

Two other men who belong to the same gang as Flores were tried and acquitted of charges related to Sam’s death in 2005, although one did receive eight years in prison for another assault he pleaded guilty to that occurred at the same party. Thereafter the case went cold, but Ventura County Sheriff Investigators - supplied with information from Santa Paula Police - decided to take another look at the case, an investigation that led to Flores’ arrest. Flores later admitted to his cousin Mauricio Reyes, who was wearing a wire, that he had shot Reeves.  

During Tuesday’s court hearing Judge Patricia Murphy said for privacy and security reasons steps would be taken to shield the identifies of prospective jurors; those seated for the trial will be assigned numbers for identification. Flores’ lawyer objected that such a move would create fear among jurors and that the inference of gang involvement was prejudicial toward his client, but the prosecutor approved the suggestion.

The murder of Sam shook the community and its population of tight-knit teenagers, who held a massive candlelight vigil after his death. A talented musician, Sam played with a band named Fallen Angels. A bench placed by Sam’s family near his Santa Paula Cemetery burial plot is often occupied by the teen’s wide circle of friends.