Driver in shooting that killed young mother gets 8 years in prison

SAN DIEGO — The driver in a gang-related car-to-car shooting in Encanto in 1995 that killed a young mother in front of her boyfriend and 10-month-old daughter was sentenced Friday to eight years in state prison.

Samuel Sayles, now 40, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and a gang allegation in the April 29, 1995, shooting death of 18-year-old Crystal Odom.

Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide sentenced Sayles to the maximum term under the law for aiding and abetting the alleged gunman, Aswad Walker.

Walker, also 40, has been tried twice for murder, with each trial ending in a hung jury. He faces a third trial Jan. 17.

A third defendant, Jamar Phillips, pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court and testified in both trials.

The case went unsolved until 2015, when detectives received tips from the public that helped them identify the suspects, police said.

Deputy District Attorney David Bost said Odom, her boyfriend Curtis Harvey and their 10-month-old daughter, Aaliyah, encountered Sayles and his group at a gas station about 10:30 p.m. and looks were exchanged between the two parties.

Odom decided to drive off before pumping any gas, but Sayles followed and pulled alongside her car at 65th and Akins streets, near Wideman Memorial Park, according to Bost.

Someone inside the suspect car opened fire, striking Odom three times in the head, the prosecutor said. Harvey drove Odom to her mother’s home a few blocks away, but the victim died there.

In a letter to the court, Odom’s mother, Gloria Jimenez, said her daughter — an “A” student and ROTC member — dreamed of being a probation officer.

“I will never stop grieving over the loss of Crystal,” she wrote.

James Odom said he asked God why his daughter’s life was cut short because she had no enemies.

He said Sayles was just as guilty as the shooter because he drove the car that followed his daughter.

“God will find him (Sayles) guilty of murder,” James Odom told the judge.

Sayles, who was 18 at the time of Odom’s murder, had a juvenile court record for auto theft and burglary and was on adult probation for auto theft at the time, Bost said.