Santa Paula Times

Samuel Travis Reeves: Flores gets life plus 30 years for murder of SP teen

June 13, 2012
Santa Paula News

A Santa Paula family saw some level of justice done last week when the Santa Paula man convicted of murdering their popular 15-year-old son in 2003 was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.

In March, a jury convicted Joe Fidel Flores, 32, of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Samuel Travis Reeves at a birthday party just east of Santa Paula. Jurors also applied special circumstances that the crimes were committed for the benefit of a Santa Paula street gang. Flores is ineligible for parole.

According to an earlier statement by Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Harman, who prosecuted Flores, Reeves “had no association with any type of gang” and had attended the October 11, 2003 pay-to-go birthday party with his two brothers. Held at a ranch just east of Santa Paula, the party drew hundreds of area teens and youth that were drinking beer and hard liquor.

Harman contended that the then-23-year-old Flores killed the unarmed Reeves only because Flores was embarrassed in front of other gang members at the October 11, 2003 party. The fight was triggered when Reeves’ brother and his brother’s friend were involved in a bumping incident with another man.

“We were there every day of the trial,” said Sam Reeves Friday, several days after the June 6 sentencing in a Ventura County Superior Court.

Flores had claimed self-defense, and that Reeves had him in a chokehold during the melee, but it was found that Flores fired on Reeves from a standing position. The prosecutor said Flores fired after his nose was bloodied in the fight and he felt humiliated in front of other gang members. 

Two people suspected of being Santa Paula gang members were previously accused of first-degree murder in Reeves’ death, but acquitted in 2005. One later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a separate assault on the night of the killing and was sentenced to eight years in prison; he was released about four years later.

The murder of Sam, a Santa Paula High School student, shook the community and its tight-knit population of teenagers, who held a massive candlelight vigil after his death. He was a talented skateboarder and musician that played with a band. 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.

The family continued their quest for justice up to the day Flores was sentenced. “We would never stop until there was justice, and now it’s been done,” said Reeves, who noted the sentencing “slammed the door shut on Joe Flores... we all deserve a life now. The family,” Samuel’s mother Diane and his older brothers, “have been in this horrible dark place for so long.... Now that it’s over,” said Reeves, “we pray that we can pull ourselves out of that place.”