Case against Flores in death of Samuel Reeves Jr. goes to the jury

March 14, 2012
Santa Paula News

The trial that featured secretly recorded comments of the defendant, admitting to the shooting of a Santa Paula teenager during a melee at a party and the gang culture that prosecutors allege led to the murder, is now in the hands of the jury.

Jurors must now decide whether the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Samuel Travis Reeves Jr. was committed by Joe “Joey” Fidel Flores, 31, a Santa Paula gang member who murdered Reeves because he believed he was being “disrespected,” or whether it was self-defense. The jury received the case late Wednesday after closing arguments by the prosecutor and Flores’ defense attorney.

Witnesses testified during the approximately week long trail that a fight broke out at the October 11, 2003 pay-to-go birthday party when Reeves’ brother and his brother’s friend were involved in a chest-bumping incident with another man. The well advertised party - testimony noted that fliers were handed out at area community colleges - drew hundreds of area teenagers and youth to the ranch just north of Highway 126 and east of Santa Paula where guests, mostly 16 to 20 years old, were ferried in and alcohol was served.

Flores, who was arrested in July 2009 while serving time in Ventura County on unrelated charges, did not testify in his defense. He is charged with first-degree murder. 

Flores had claimed he fired on Reeves after being choked from behind. The prosecution alleges Flores was on his feet when he shot Reeves for the benefit of his street gang after being “disrespected”. The prosecutor told the jury there is no evidence supporting the self-defense theory, and that Flores had brought the gun to the party and was willing to use it.

Mauricio Reyes, now in the witness protection program, secretly wore a wire when talking to Flores as well as Nathan Maloney, another area gang member who had initially been tried in Reeves’ death. Acquitted, Maloney did plead guilty to assaulting another man at the same party and recently was released from prison.

Maloney told Reyes on the tape that Flores had been under a pile of combatants when he fired the gun in self-defense and should plead guilty to same. But when called to the witness stand, Maloney testified he knew nothing about the circumstances of the shooting.

Reyes also wore a body wire to secretly record a conversation with Flores, who said he fired because he was being beaten up and choked and thought his life was in danger.

On Friday, the jury asked to have the testimony of four witnesses read back to them including Reyes, Maloney, David Reeves, and Thomas Mendez. The jury was still deliberating as of Monday morning. 

The murder of Sam shook the community and its tight-knit population of 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.

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