VISTA, Calif. — A woman who pleaded guilty to killing her boyfriend learned her fate in court Tuesday as a judge handed down her sentence in a Vista courtroom.
Judge Brad Weinreb sentenced Shelley Reaves to 16 years to life for killing her boyfriend, Rafael Choza, at their Escondido apartment.
Both parties agreed to the lesser charge for Reaves’ guilty plea.
Both families were in court Tuesday, but only Choza’s children, brother and ex-wife made victim impact statements.
“He gave more than he took, that’s the kind of person my dad was,” said Choza’s son.
“The man you took from us was kind, generous, charming, clever, joyful,” said Choza’s daughter.
The family of Choza spoke through their pain over the murder of their loved one. Choza was the brother to nine siblings and a father to his two adult children.
“No one should leave this earth in such a horrible way,” said the victim’s son.
“He was ripped from us — his future stolen, our future stolen,” Choza’s daughter added.
“The manner in which she took his life was just heinous, it was violent, it was unnecessary,” said Judge Weinreb.
In December 2020, investigators say Reaves repeatedly stabbed Choza in their Escondido Apartment. Choza died at the scene.
Additionally, investigators say Reaves had been out on bond for domestic abuse charges against Choza when she murdered him.
“For months I was haunted with the visuals. My mind was stuck: what must it feel like to push a kitchen knife through human flesh? The weight, how much force you need to do, what’s the resistance feel like?” explained Choza’s daughter.
Reaves tried to apologize in court, more than once.
“I’m sorry Ariana, I’m truly sorry,” Reaves said to Choza’s daughter.
“You killed him. It was evil — the way you killed him. He wasn’t able to defend himself, he wasn’t able to put his hands to cover himself, you just…why?” said Choza’s brother.
“Sorry, I was mentally ill,” Reaves pleaded with Choza’s brother.
“No you’re not, no you’re not, you’re not. You’re evil,” Choza’s brother responded.
“I will have to live with that, and I’m truly sorry,” Reaves said to the court.
“I hope one day she can realize how much pain she has caused so many people. No one wins. I will find peace knowing she will be behind bars where she belongs,” Choza’s son said
“We’ll never be the same, we will never be whole, I’ll never forgive you,” Choza’s daughter said.
For her guilty plea, Reaves has waived all appeals. She will be eligible for parole in 15 years. The court also ordered her to pay $5,000 in restitution fines to the court, plus more than $7,000 to Choza’s family for funeral costs.