Stan Smart, center, and other members of Kristin Smart's family speak to the media after Friday's sentencing hearing for Paul Flores, the man convicted of murdering Smart in 1996. Credit: Screenshot via San Luis Obispo Tribune

Los Angeles County should prosecute Paul Flores for the alleged rapes he committed in their county, Kristin Smart’s family said at a press conference Friday following Flores’ sentencing in Salinas.

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe sentenced Flores to 25 years to life, following two failed attempts by Flores’ attorney to deem the trial unfair.

A Monterey County jury convicted Flores on Oct. 18, 2022, after hearing evidence in the three-month-long trial. A separate jury acquitted Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, of helping his son conceal the crime.

Flores has been a person of interest in Smart’s disappearance since 1996, the year she disappeared. He was the last person to see the Cal Poly freshman alive after walking home from an off-campus party in San Luis Obispo.

Prosecutors believe Flores took Smart back to his dorm in order to have sex with her, and allege he murdered Smart during a rape or attempted rape.

Two women testified during the trial that Paul Flores raped them in the years that followed Smart’s death. Both alleged rapes — along with another that has DNA evidence connecting a rape kit to Flores — were committed in Los Angeles County.

Other Los Angeles County women also have accused Flores of rape, and videos of Flores having sex with unconscious women and child pornography were found on Flores’ computer.

“(The women who testified) are truly the unsung heroes here, and I’m so grateful for them and I equally want their justice,” Lindsey Smart, Kristin Smart’s sister, said at an impromptu press conference outside Monterey County Superior Court. “While it did take us 26 years, I don’t want it to take 26 years for them.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office told The Tribune in January that it would not prosecute any rape or child pornography charges against Flores. The office said the rape kit could not be prosecuted because the woman blacked out during her alleged assault, so it could not be proven whether she consented.

Denise Smart, Kristin Smart’s mother, said Friday was a day of relief rather than a day of joy because “Kristin’s voice was finally heard.” She said the two next steps for the family are to find justice for the other women Flores is alleged to have assaulted and to find her daughter’s body.

“It’s also time for Los Angeles to give voice to the women who … lost part of their lives. Their voices have not been heard,” Denise Smart said. “Justice is for everyone.”

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said there is no sentence that is sufficient to bring justice for Kristin Smart because it won’t bring her back.

“Kristin is gone, forever gone. But we will never give up looking for her and seeking to find her and bringing her back to the family,” Dow said.

Lindsey Smart said she and her mother will do whatever it takes to keep Paul Flores behind bars, change the law to punish those who hide bodies and refuse to give up the location, and find Kristin Smart.

Stan Smart, Kristin Smart’s father, said he hopes Flores has second thoughts while in state prison and comes forward with the location of his daughter’s body. Smart’s family kept her memory alive ever since she disappeared, advocating for justice for their daughter and posting billboards around the county, some which still remain today.

One of those billboards sparked curiosity in Orcutt resident Chris Lambert, who began publishing the “Your Own Backyard” podcast in 2019, which explored Smart’s case. Law enforcement and the Smart family have credited Lambert with bringing forth new witnesses and reigniting interest in the case by bringing it to a national spotlight.

“It feels surreal,” Lambert said of the sentencing, noting that he was only 8 when Smart first disappeared. He said the case feels like it’s gone on for his entire life, especially in the past five years.

Flores’ sentencing also marked the end of San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Detective Clint Cole’s career. Cole began investigating the Smart case in 2019 as a cold case detective and was the lead detective through Flores’ sentencing. He is now retiring.

“It feels amazing,” Cole said of Flores’ life sentence occurring on his last day with the Sheriff’s Office.

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