2 men on trial in 1995 slaying of young mother

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SAN DIEGO – A man should be convicted of murder for the car-to-car shooting death of an 18-year-old woman in Encanto he targeted because he thought her boyfriend was a rival gang member and a threat, a prosecutor told a jury Wednesday.

Aswad Walker, 40, went on trial for a second time in connection with the April 29, 1995, murder of Crystal Odom.

A jury late last year deadlocked 11-1 for guilt.

A separate jury began hearing evidence against Walker’s co-defendant. It’s the first trial for Samuel David Sayles, 40.

Deputy District Attorney David Bost said Odom, her young daughter, and her boyfriend, Curtis Harvey, went to an AM/PM store about 10 p.m., but left because they thought a group of men in another car were “mad-dogging” them.

Bost said Odom drove hurriedly off, but the car containing the men followed.

At 65th Street and Akins Avenue, a car allegedly driven by Samuel David Sayles pulled alongside Odom’s car and the front seat passenger — alleged to be Walker — fired four shots, hitting Odom twice in the head and once in the neck, the prosecutor said.

Harvey was able to gain control of the car and drove to the home of Odom’s mother, where the victim collapsed and died.

Bost said Harvey looked through a middle school yearbook and identified Walker as the killer.

Jamar Phillips, who was a juvenile at the time, said he was in the back seat of the suspect vehicle and told investigators that Sayles was the driver and Walker the shooter, according to Bost.

Phillips, now 39, pleaded guilty in Juvenile Court to being an accessory after the fact.

Bost said the case was a “whodunit” for years, with evidence trails going cold. After witnesses and Sayles were re-interviewed, Walker, Sayles and Phillips were arrested in 2015.

Sayles’ attorney, Stephen Cline, said his client told police that he didn’t know there was going to be a shooting that night.

“Nobody knew that (Aswad) Walker was going to shoot,” Cline said, asking jurors to acquit his client of murder and attempted murder charges.

Walker’s attorney, Jane Kinsey, told the jury hearing her client’s case that Harvey was drunk and high the night of the murder and told police that Odom’s killer shot from the back seat.

Harvey also told police that the suspect car was orange or brown, not silver as originally reported, according to Kinsey.