Former SLO County Prosecutor Named Best in California

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

July 31, 2023

In the top picture left to right: Monterey County DA Jeannine Pacioni, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow, Monterey County Assistant DA Chris Peuvrelle, and CDAA Chief Executive Officer Greg Totten. Submitted photo

The former San Luis Obispo County prosecutor who brought justice to the family of murder victim, Kristen Smart, has been given a statewide award for his efforts.

Former SLO County Deputy D.A. Chris Peuvrelle received the award for the “2022 Outstanding Prosecutor of the Year” for rural and medium-sized counties in California, D.A. Dan Dow said in a Facebook post. The award was formally presented at the recent California District Attorneys Association Summer Conference.

Dow nominated Peuvrelle for the award for the “enormous effort that resulted in the successful prosecution of People v. Paul Flores for the 1996 murder of Kristin Smart.”

Smart was a Cal Poly freshman in May 1996 when she disappeared after an off-campus party on Memorial Day Weekend. Paul Flores was the last person to see Smart alive and has been the only suspect in her disappearance since she first vanished. Her body has yet to be found.

Flores’ father, Reuben Flores, was also charged as an accomplice after the fact in the case, accused of aiding and abetting his son to hide Smart’s body.

The case took over a quarter century to bring to trial.

The Flores’ cases were moved to Salinas in a change of venue because Smart’s disappearance had captured the attention of most SLO County residents over its long history, including special documentary stories on TV. A popular Podcast, “Your Own Backyard,” delved deeply into the case and was actually credited by the County Sheriff for helping them crack the languishing case. 

Smart’s disappearance — now officially a murder — was always considered to be “open” and actively investigated, though it fell off the public radar for years at a time.

And while it took an army of law enforcement, from several agencies to gather enough evidence to charge the younger Flores for the killing, it was on Peuvrelle’s shoulders to present the case.

Paul Flores was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. The conviction came with a purely circumstantial body of evidence, and despite no body to definitively prove her death. 

But the two cases resulted in a split decision as the elder Flores was acquitted on his abetting charge. 

In what was an unusual circumstance, father-son had separate trials judged by separate juries, though the trials were conducted simultaneously and before the same judge. There were even separate defense attorneys for the defendants, against a single prosecutor.

Shortly after the Flores trials concluded, Peuvrelle left the SLO County District Attorney’s Office to become Supervising Assistant District Attorney for Monterey County in January 2023, after receiving the appointment by Monterey County D.A. Jeannine Pacioni.

“We are incredibly proud of Chris and the entire prosecution team,” D.A. Dow said, “for their tremendous work to bring accountability for Paul Flores and Justice for Kristin Smart.”

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