MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – Paul Flores, a 45-year-old man convicted in October 2022 of murdering Kristin Smart in California more than 26 years ago was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Friday, Law&Crime reported.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe referred to Flores as a “cancer to society” during his sentencing. The judge, who rejected defense motions to toss out the conviction and order a new trial, also ordered him to register as a sex offender, according to the Associated Press.
“Today, our criminal and victim justice system has finally delivered justice for Kristin Smart, for the Smart family, and for our San Luis Obispo County community,” said District Attorney Dan Dow in a statement. “We thank the Smart family and our community for the tremendous trust and patience they placed in the investigation and prosecution of this terrible crime. Today, justice delayed is not justice denied.”
Flores was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Smart, who was his schoolmate, and just 19-years-old when she was killed in 1996.
In closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle told jurors that Flores raped or tried to rape Smart, killed her, and hid the body with the assistance of his father, Ruben Flores. Smart’s body was never recovered. Authorities maintained that she was buried under the deck at Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande, California, and that the remains were relocated in 2020, Law&Crrime reported.
Paul Flores (San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office)
“But now you know where she was all along, under their deck,” he said. “They treated her burial with less reverence than a family pet.”
Law Officer article October 19, 2022
MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – California Polytechnic State University student Kristin Smart disappeared 26 years ago. The high-profile case garnered national attention but the woman was never found and no one was held accountable, until now. Paul Flores, 45, was found guilty of first-degree murder on Tuesday. His father, Ruben Flores, 81, was acquitted by a separate jury on accessory charges.
Paul Flores remained stoic when the guilty verdict was announced. His father, who was seated directly behind him, also didn’t react as his son was convicted, KSBY reported.
Several of Smart’s family members were inside the courtroom as well. Her mother and sister cried for several minutes after the verdict was read. Her father and brother appeared relieved, according to the news outlet.
Despite avoiding prosecution for decades, Paul Flores was consistently the focus in the disappearance and presumed murder of the 19-year-old Cal Poly freshman. He was the last person known to see her alive on Memorial Day weekend 1996, when he walked her home from an alcohol-fueled off-campus party.
According to prosecutors, the younger Flores tried to rape her and killed her, possibly in his dorm room, on the night of May 25, 1996 when they were both freshman at the school, the New York Post reported.
During his first interview following Smart’s disappearance, Paul Flores had a black eye. He claimed it happened while playing a game of pickup basketball, according to court records.
However, his friends didn’t believe the basketball game led to his shiner, so he later changed his story and said he bumped his head working on his car, court records revealed.
Smart’s body was never discovered and she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Robert Sanger represented Paul Flores as his attorney. Sanger claimed someone else killed Smart, and noted during the trial that Scott Peterson — the man notoriously known for murdering his pregnant wife and is currently serving a life sentence — was also a student at the school when Smart vanished.
Reuben Flores was accused of having buried Smart on his property in Arroyo Grande, a little more than 10 miles from Cal Poly. Investigators discovered disturbed soil and the presence of blood, but could not link it to Smart through DNA testing.
The trial for the father and son duo began in a Salinas courtroom in Monterey County on July 18 after a judge in San Luis Obispo County ruled in March that the Flores’ would likely not receive a fair and impartial trial in the county, primarily due to decades of publicity in the case and San Luis Obispo County’s size.
Although Paul and Reuben Flores were tried together, they had separate juries deciding their fate. At times the juries had to be shuttled in and out of court when evidence presented was specific to one defendant.
During the course of the trial, dozens of witnesses were called to testify, including Smart’s parents, college friends, forensic analysts, detectives, and acquaintances of Paul Flores. During testimony, some witnesses chronicled interactions or conversations they had with him around the time Smart disappeared.
Law enforcement personnel who handled the early parts of the investigation were also called to the witness stand. Moreover, two women testified to having been sexually assaulted and raped by Paul Flores in Southern California, KSBY reported.
Although Paul Flores was convicted of murdering Smart, Reuben Flores was acquitted of charges he helped cover-up the crime. Their verdicts were read separately.
Jurors in the murder case had deliberated over the course of two weeks before rendering the guilty verdict.
Paul Flores faces 25 years to life when he is later sentenced.