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Paul Flores sentenced to 25 years to life in prison without parole for 1996 murder of Kristin Smart

This undated photo released by the FBI shows Kristin Smart, the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo student who disappeared in 1996. (FBI via AP, File)

(CNN) — The man convicted of killing fellow college student Kristin Smart in 1996 was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison without parole Friday in a California court, according to CNN affiliate KSBY.

Paul Flores, 46, was found guilty in October of the first-degree murder of Smart, whose body has never been located.

Smart vanished in May 1996, when she and Flores were both attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in central California. Flores was the last person to see Smart alive and prosecutors argued he raped or attempted to rape Smart and then killed her in his dorm room.

Smart’s disappearance rattled the town of San Luis Obispo, with little progress being made in the case for more than two decades. Smart was declared dead by authorities in 2002.

podcast launched in 2019 from journalist Chris Lambert titled “Your Own Backyard” then brought renewed attention to Smart and her family’s plight, which her family later credited for shining a spotlight “in our darkest hours by sharing Kristin’s voice and story.”

In 2021, new evidence led authorities to arrest Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, in connection with Smart’s death. Investigators at Ruben Flores’ home used ground-penetrating radar, dug on the property using hand tools and recovered items as evidence, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office told CNN at the time.

Prosecutors accused Flores’ father of assisting with moving Smart’s body to his home in Arroyo Grande and hiding her remains under his deck for a period of time. A jury later found Ruben Flores not guilty of being an accessory to Smart’s murder.

Following Paul’s conviction and Ruben’s acquittal on October 18, 2022, Smart’s family expressed mixed emotions and thanked prosecutors and investigators for their efforts.

“Without Kristin, there is no joy or victory with this verdict, we all know it did not have to be this way,” a statement from the Smart family read. “After 26 years, with today’s split verdicts, we learned that our quest for justice for Kristin will continue.”