MONTEREY – The man convicted of the murder of Kristin Smart, who disappeared from a California college campus more than 25 years ago, was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison.
Paul Flores is “a cancer to society,” said Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe. Flores must also register as a sex offender.
Before sentencing, the judge rejected defense requests to overturn Flores’ conviction, acquit him and order a new trial.
Smart, 19, disappeared from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, on the state’s picturesque Central Coast, over Memorial Day weekend in 1996.
Her remains were never found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Prosecutors maintained that Flores, now 46, killed Smart during an attempted rape on May 25, 1996, in his university dormitory, where both were freshmen. He was the last person seen with Smart as he drove her home from an off-campus party.
Flores was arrested in 2021 along with his father, who was accused of helping to hide Smart’s body.
The trial was held in Salinas, Monterey County, about 177 kilometers north of San Luis Obispo, after the defense argued that the high profile of the case prevented Flores and her father from getting a fair trial in their own county.
At sentencing, prosecutor Chris Peuvrelle asked the judge for the maximum sentence, called Flores a “true psychopath” and said he should never be released from prison.
Smart’s father, brothers and other friends and relatives spoke at the hearing about the impact of his death on the family.
A jury found Flores guilty of first-degree murder in October. A separate jury acquitted Ruben Flores, 81, of being an accomplice.
At the Paul Flores trial, defense attorney Robert Sanger tried to pin the murder on someone else. Sanger noted that Scott Peterson, who was later convicted in a sensationalized trial for the murder of his pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying, was also a student on campus some 200 miles (320 kilometers) up the coast from Los Angeles.
Sanger filed motions on February 24 in Monterey County Superior Court, requesting that the charges be dropped and his client acquitted. A motion also seeks a new trial.
Sanger disputed the forensic evidence offered by the prosecution. He argued that Flores’ right to a fair trial was violated because of misrepresentation and “the admission of rubbish science as evidence”.
“There is a reason that a lawsuit against Paul Flores has not been filed for 25 years,” the motion said. “There was no evidence of a murder or that Paul Flores committed it.”
The San Luis Obispo County Attorney’s Office asked the court to deny those requests, arguing that “the allegations of misconduct are unfounded and the allegations of miscarriage of justice are incorrect.”
Flores had long been considered a suspect in the murder. He had a black eye when investigators interviewed him. He told them he got it playing basketball with friends, who denied him. He later changed his story to say that he hit his head while working on his car, according to court records.
Investigators conducted dozens of fruitless searches for Smart’s body over two decades. For the past two years, they’ve turned their attention to Ruben Flores’ home in the community of Arroyo Grande, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of the California State Polytechnic.
Behind the trellis under the deck of their large home on a cul-de-sac, archaeologists working for the police in March 2021 found a coffin-sized disturbance of soil and the presence of human blood, prosecutors said. The blood was too degraded to extract a DNA sample.
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