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Press Release

Nov. 16, 2016

Jury recommends death for Adelanto gang member convicted of 2009 double murder

JAMES ELLIS (BOOKING PHOTO)636149252617132028

James Ellis (Booking Photo)

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Victorville jury recommended death today for an Adelanto man convicted of the 2009 double slaying of 28-year-old Ealy Davis, Jr. and 26-year-old Shameka Reliford.

On Oct. 3, James Ellis, 28, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of First Degree Murder and one count of Active Participation in a Criminal Street Gang. Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, murder during the commission of a robbery, murder while an active participant in a criminal street gang and multiple murder which made Ellis eligible for the death penalty.

Today, based on the evidence presented during the Penalty Phase, the jury recommended the death penalty.

“Seeking the death penalty is one of the single most difficult decisions I have to make, and it is reserved for the worst of the worst criminals,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos. “When we seek the death penalty, it is important to remember that it is not a reflection of our brutality, but rather an expression of our disdain for the defendant’s brutal actions.”

On Nov. 23, 2009, Ellis plotted with three other men and a woman to rob Ealy Davis:

  • Forrest Taylor, 29, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole May 14, 2013.
  • Sandra Smith, 36, of Adelanto, was sentenced to 18 years in state prison Feb. 6, 2012.
  • William Jacobs, 29, of Adelanto, was sentenced to 13 years, 8 months Feb. 19, 2016
  • Joseph Bowen, 21, of Victorville was sentenced to probation for being an accessory after the fact Jan. 6, 2012.


On Nov. 23, 2009, Forrest Taylor, William Jacobs, Joseph Bowen and Sandra Smith were gathered at Smith's residence in Adelanto. During this gathering, there was discussion about a desire to acquire drugs and money. One of them suggested robbing a drug dealer. During the planning process, Ellis produced a handgun and showed it to the others.

Smith then suggested they rob Davis, a drug dealer she knows. Smith knows Davis because Davis was currently dating her half-sister Shameka Reliford.

According to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Britt Imes, who prosecuted the case, Smith provided Taylor with Davis' cell phone number. Several phone calls were placed to lure Mr. Davis to a secluded area near Westside Park Elementary School.

At the agreed-upon meeting place, Ellis approached Davis’ car. Davis was seated in the driver's seat and Shameka Reliford was in the right front passenger seat. Two other passengers were in the backseat.

Ellis asked Davis, "Do you got me?" and Davis replied, "Yes."

This exchange was repeated, and then Ellis took a step back, produced a handgun and fired 4 to 5 times into the vehicle. Davis was killed immediately, and Reliford was taken to Victor Valley Community Hospital, where she died later.

“The defendant has demonstrated a desire to continue a life of violent gang behavior up to and through the prosecution of this case,” said Imes. “While seeking the ultimate punishment is a tough decision for all involved, I am pleased that a hardworking and dedicated jury representing the communities of this county held the defendant responsible for his actions and provided the families some sense of justice.”

Further proceedings and sentencing has been tentatively set for Jan. 27, 2017.

This case was investigated by the Adelanto Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Homicide Division.


Contact: Christopher Lee, Public Affairs Officer (909) 382-3665 or via email at clee@sbcda.org or via text at (909) 782-5559

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It is the mission of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office to represent the interests of the people in the criminal justice system, as mandated by California State law. The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office serves the residents of San Bernardino County by: seeking the truth, protecting the innocent; holding the guilty accountable; preserving the dignity of victims and their families; and, ensuring that justice is done while always maintaining the highest ethical standards.

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