Paul Flores, who was convicted last fall in the 1996 murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, was sentenced Friday and received 25 years to life.
Just last week, an attorney for Flores, Robert Sanger, was making a last-ditch effort to call for a new trial — with the defense having long held on to the fact that Smart's body has never been found. But a preponderance of circumstantial and physical evidence led a jury to convict Flores in October, and Flores has been, essentially, the sole suspect in Smart's murder for 27 years, with very little logical possibility that anyone else could be involved.
Flores's octogenarian father, Ruben Flores, was charged as an accessory in the case and tried alongside his son — but a separate jury decided his fate and chose to acquit him. Ruben Flores, according to the prosecution, has aided his son in concealing Smart's remains, likely more than once, with evidence that pointed to a disturbed gravesite underneath the back deck of the elder Flores's home.
As the New York Times reports, Paul Flores was sentenced Friday in the same Monterey County courthouse where he was tried last year — about 100 miles away from San Luis Obispo, where the murder is believed to have taken place. The defense moved for and was granted a change of venue due to the high level of familiarity that the town of San Luis Obispo had with the crime and all of the evidence, with this story having unfolded over 25 years.
Smart was last seen, very intoxicated, being walked back to her dorm with Paul Flores following an off-campus party at a frat house over Memorial Day Weekend at Cal Poly in 1996. The prosecution's theory in the case was that Flores took Smart — with whom he had been notably obsessed that school year according to multiple witnesses — back to his dorm room, not far from where she lived, and attempted to sexually assault her. Smart fought back, resulting in a well documented black eye that Flores had, but he then took her life.
Cadaver dogs would later alert to the bed in his dorm room, and to a window frame out of which the body could have plausibly been moved into a waiting vehicle — the room was on the ground floor.
Flores's roommate at the time was gone for the long weekend, and when he returned, he testified to hearing some conflicting things from Flores about the source of his black eye.
One witness who only came forward in the last five years, Jennifer Hudson, testified at trial to having heard Flores, possibly under the influence of a substance, bragging in a room full of skater friends in the summer of 1996 when a TV commercial came on about the missing Smart — he allegedly called her a "dick tease" and said she was buried under his skate ramp.
The prosecution also brought forward two women who testified that Flores had drugged and raped them as adults, long after he left Cal Poly.
Flores, 46, has been in custody since his arrest in April 2021, a full 25 years after Smart was killed.
Photo courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office