Paul Flores sentenced to 25 years to life for the murder of Kristin Smart

Paul Flores was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart, who disappeared over Memorial Day weekend more than 25 years ago and whose body was n was never found.

After hearing from Smart’s relatives, Monterey County Judge Jennifer O’Keefe convicted Flores, 46, of her 1996 murder. Prosecutors believe he raped or attempted to rape Smart in his dorm before to kill her and hide her body.

For memory :

4:30 p.m. March 10, 2023An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Paul Flores had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, which means he could possibly be released on parole.

O’Keefe said Paul Flores acted for the purpose of sexual gratification and sexual compulsion. She said her predatory behavior spanned her entire adult life, a reference to trial testimony from two Los Angeles-area women who said they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Flores over the past ten years. .

Stan Smart, Kristin’s father, described the devastating effect on his family.

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare – the disappearance and death of their child,” he said. “We shared her hopes, her dreams, her aspirations as she grew into a beautiful young adult, and now she can never have a full life.”

Matthew Smart, Kristin’s brother, said the sentencing brought no joy and they always knew it was Flores.

O’Keefe handed down the sentence after denying a motion by Robert Sanger, Flores’ defense attorney, for a new trial because the prosecutor erred in his closing argument by misrepresenting the standard of reasonable doubt.

Prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle declared Flores a “true psychopath”.

“After nearly 27 years of untold anguish, the Smart family has finally seen their daughter’s murderer convicted,” he said in a statement afterwards. “Their strength and determination inspire us all.”

Smart was 19 when she disappeared on May 25, 1996, when she was last seen walking to college dorms with Flores after a frat party. His disappearance sparked a massive manhunt in the area that included helicopters, speed cameras, cadaver dogs, horses and buses full of volunteers.

Although her body was never found, she was legally declared dead in 2002.

From the start, investigators focused on Flores. Like Smart, he was 19 and in first grade. His classmates described him as clumsy and unpopular; five months before Smart’s disappearance, a female student called the police and reported that Flores, apparently drunk, had climbed onto her balcony and refused to leave.

In interviews, Flores told investigators that he accompanied Smart to his dorm and then returned to his room. He first explained a black eye by saying he was elbowed in a basketball game, then admitted he lied and said he hit himself while working on a truck at his father’s house.

Without a body, investigators were repeatedly frustrated in their investigation.

Then, in April 2021, Flores was finally arrested at his home in San Pedro for the murder of Smart, which investigators say was the result of a combination of physical evidence seized in recent years and statements from unquestioned witnesses. previously. His father, Ruben Flores, 81, was also arrested and charged with helping his son get rid of Smart’s remains.

After a 12-week trial, a Monterey County jury convicted Paul Flores of murder in October. A separate judge acquitted her father of being an accessory to the crime.

Smart’s disappearance and subsequent murder investigation haunted college town for years and left an indelible mark on San Luis Obispo. Billboards demanded evidence to convict his killer. His disappearance was also the subject of a real police podcast.

Due to all the attention, a judge ordered that the trial be moved to Monterey County to ensure a fair court process.

During the trial, the San Luis Obispo County Deputy District. Atti. Peuvrelle alleged that Flores raped or attempted to rape—and ultimately killed—Smart before hiding his remains under the patio of his father’s Arroyo Grande home. Then, Peuvrelle said, a neighbor reported strange activity with a trailer in the yard in 2020. The prosecutor argued that the father and son moved Smart’s remains as investigators reinvestigate the property. .

A lawyer in a courtroom

Robert Sanger, defense attorney for Paul Flores, concludes his case during closing arguments in the Flores murder trial October 5 in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas.

(Laura Dickinson/San Luis Obispo Tribune)

Peuvrelle portrayed Paul Flores as a predator who, even after becoming the focus of the Smart investigation, drugged and raped women he lured to his Los Angeles-area home.

Sanger, Flores’ defense attorney, said jurors were told “a bunch of conspiracy theories not supported by facts.” Prosecutors, he argued, had no forensic evidence, including DNA or blood, linking Flores to a crime.

Judge Jennifer O'Keefe

Judge Jennifer O’Keefe is presiding over the trial in Monterey County Superior Court.

(Daniel Dreifuss / Monterey County Weekly)

Peuvrelle testified during the trial that Flores, another Cal Poly student, had “chased” Smart for months, noting testimonies that he frequently appeared where she was, including in her dorm.

According to accounts, Smart arrived at a party in Crandall Street around 10:30 p.m. Others present said she never smelled alcohol, but was seen with a drink shortly before midnight after hanging out with Flores. Then she passed out on a lawn for two hours. Peuvrelle alleged that her behavior was consistent with someone drugging her.

As Smart and two other students began to leave, Flores emerged from the darkness to help her walk home, witnesses testified. Smart needed help climbing a hill, and once in sight of the sleeping quarters, prosecutors say, Flores promised to drive her home. Later, he insisted on leaving her within sight of his dormitory.

Peuvrelle said the evidence showed Flores took Smart back to his dorm. Four cadaver dogs would eventually enter his room because of “the smell of death on his mattress”, the prosecutor told jurors.

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