The Reporter (Vacaville)

Kristin Smart's killer gets 25 years to life


The man convicted of killing Kristin Smart, who vanished from a California college campus more than 25 years ago, was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison.

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O'Keefe rejected defense motions to toss out Paul Flores' first-degree murder conviction, acquit him and order a new trial.

She said Flores had been “a cancer to society” and in addition to his prison term must register as a sex offender for life.

“You deserve to spend every day you have left behind bars,” O'Keefe said, noting that Flores had “lived free in the community” for more than two decades and for his adult life had engaged in “predatory behavior” against women.

Smart, 19, disappeare­d from California Polytechni­c State University in San Luis Obispo on the state's scenic central coast over Memorial Day weekend in 1996.

Her remains have never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

Prosecutor­s maintained that Flores, now 46, killed Smart during an attempted rape May 25, 1996, in his dorm room at the university, where both were firstyear students. He was the last person seen with Smart as he walked her home from an off-campus party.

Flores was arrested in 2021 along with his father, accused of helping to hide Smart's body.

The trial was held in Salinas, in Monterey County, about 110 miles north of San Luis Obispo, after the defense argued that the case's notoriety prevented Flores and his father from receiving a fair trial in their own county.

At the 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, siblings and other friends and relatives spoke at the hearing about the impact of her death on the family. Her brother, Matthew Smart, asked that Flores spend life in prison.

“Paul chose to take a life, my sister Kristin's life, a beautiful life,” he said. “And now he must pay.”

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement after the hearing that justice had been finally served.

“After nearly 27 years of unspeakabl­e anguish, the Smart family has finally seen their daughter's killer sentenced,” the statement said. “Their strength and determinat­ion serve as an inspiratio­n to us all.”

A jury found Flores guilty in October. A separate jury acquitted Ruben Flores, 81, of being an accessory.

At Paul Flores' trial, defense attorney Robert Sanger tried to pin the killing on someone else. Sanger noted that Scott Peterson, later convicted at a sensationa­l trial of murdering his pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying, was also a student at the campus about 200 miles up the coast from Los Angeles.

Sanger filed motions Feb. 24 in Monterey County Superior Court requesting that charges be dismissed and his client acquitted. One motion also seeks a new trial.

Sanger disputed forensic evidence offered by the prosecutio­n. He contended that Flores' right to a fair trial was violated because of prosecutio­n errors and “the admission of junk science as evidence.”

“There is a reason that a case against Paul Flores was not brought for 25 years,” the motion said. “There was no evidence of a murder or that Paul Flores committed it.”

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