Paul Flores, who was found guilty last year of murdering Kristin Smart in 1996 when they were both university students, was sentenced on Friday to 25 years to life in prison, capping an emotional day for the Smart family, who waited more than a quarter of a century for some sense of justice.
A Superior Court judge, Jennifer O’Keefe, sentenced Mr. Flores, 46, for the murder of Ms. Smart, 19, a freshman at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where Mr. Flores was also a student.
He got the maximum sentence, which was 25 years to life in prison, according to the district attorney’s office for San Luis Obispo County.
Relatives of Ms. Smart spoke in the courtroom on Friday before the sentencing and talked candidly about how Mr. Flores had upended their lives.
Her brother, Matthew Smart, described Mr. Flores as a “menace to society,” The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
“And now he must pay,” he added.
Stan Smart, Ms. Smart’s father, asked for the maximum sentence allowed.
Judge O’Keefe was blunt in her remarks, telling Mr. Flores, who wore a mask and a suit, that he has been “a cancer to society” who deserved to spend every day he has left behind bars, according to video from television station KSBY.
“For 25 years, you have lived free in the community while Kristin’s family has lived a nightmare,” she said.
Christopher Peuvrelle, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said in a statement that “after nearly 27 years of unspeakable anguish, the Smart family has finally seen their daughter’s killer sentenced.”
“Their strength and determination serve as an inspiration to us all,” Mr. Peuvrelle said.
After a three-month trial in October, a jury found Mr. Flores guilty of murdering Ms. Smart. A separate jury found his father, Ruben Flores, 81, not guilty of helping to hide Ms. Smart’s body. Her remains have never been found.
On May 25, 1996, Ms. Smart left an off-campus party at around 2 a.m., accompanied by Mr. Flores. He later told investigators that he had walked her as far as his dorm, where they parted ways.
Ms. Smart was never seen again. A missing persons report was filed three days later.
Friends told investigators that she was intoxicated and that Mr. Flores repeatedly told them that he could accompany her to her dormitory alone, according to court documents.
Paul Flores was identified as a “person of interest” early in the case. At the time of Ms. Smart’s disappearance, investigators searched his dorm room and interviewed him. He still denies any involvement.
In 2002, Ms. Smart’s family had their daughter declared legally dead but the search and the investigation continued.
In 2021, the authorities described Paul Flores as a “prime suspect” and searched his properties using ground-penetrating radar and dogs trained to detect human remains.
On April 13, 2021, the authorities arrested Paul Flores and charged him with murder during a rape or an attempted rape. Ruben Flores was arrested at his home and charged with being an accessory after the fact.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that “a clandestine grave” had been found underneath the deck of the home of Ruben Flores, which was believed to have previously held Ms. Smart’s body, according to the district attorney’s office.
Because of the intense publicity surrounding the case, the trials were moved at the request of the defense team to Monterey County, more than 100 miles north of San Luis Obispo.