His sentence marks a close to a nearly 27-year mystery. A September 2019 podcast called “Your Own Backyard” looked into Smart’s then-unsolved disappearance, placing the tragedy back into the public eye.
Smart, a 19-year-old first-year student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, was last seen as she walked home from an off-campus party in May 1996 with Flores, a fellow student. Initially, Flores was considered a “person of interest” in the case. Investigators had questioned him and searched his dorm.
But it wasn’t until the case was revived in 2021 that Flores became a “prime suspect” and was placed under arrest.
Flores’ attorney attempted to convince jurors that another then-Cal Poly student, Scott Peterson — who years after leaving college was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in the death of his wife and their unborn child, a case that gripped national attention— was responsible for Smart’s murder.
Prosecutors accused Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, of helping Paul Flores hide Smart’s body, but a jury ultimately found his father not guilty.
Paul Flores’ attorney did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.