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Longtime attorney for Kristin Smart's family looks back at case after killer's sentencing

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Apr 11, 2023

The key players responsible for solving, prosecuting and sending Paul Flores to prison for the murder of Kristin Smart have come and gone over the past 26 years, but one person who has remained committed to the case from the very beginning is the Smart family's attorney, James Murphy.

KSBY News anchor Richard Gearhart sat down with Murphy recently to have him reflect on his years of involvement and get his perspective on the case.

Murphy spent more than a quarter of a century trying to get justice for longtime missing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart and her family. He says it has always been apparent to him who was behind her disappearance and death.

“I think it was pretty clear who the person responsible was, and I've actually been accusing him of the crime since day one," Murphy said. "Once I got enough information, I wanted to let him know that he was never going to get away with that. In fact, I ended 50 interviews over the years by looking in the camera going, 'Paul, we're going to get you.'”

And that’s exactly what Murphy did.

From depositions to court appearances, attempts to hold Paul Flores liable in civil court, hundreds of news interviews and even a billboard in front of his Arroyo Grande office — quite literally within walking distance of Flores' mother's home — Murphy is thankful Flores finally faced a jury of his peers.

“You know, I believe that the jury system is the place where that is determined," he said. "I have believed from the beginning that it was Paul Flores and I think the facts are basic and obvious about lies that he told, the promise that he made to Cheryl Anderson to make sure that [Kristin] would get home safely, his rather dubious background, his bizarre behavior, his predatory nature towards women.”
Murphy was not in court for the conviction or the sentencing but talked with the Smarts shortly after.

“I think I called them or they called me. I can't recall. I mean, I make 100 phone calls a day and I just told them I loved them and congratulations for their courage, and I think they were happy yet disappointed because Ruben (Paul's father) was not convicted.”

Murphy gives much of the credit for moving this case forward to San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson who made a promise to the Smart family that he wouldn’t give up on the case. Murphy says he followed through with that promise.

He also gives credit to Chris Lambert and his “Your Own Backyard” podcast.

“I couldn't praise him enough," Murphy said." I mean, this young man dedicated literally three years of his life to this case, so he's a bit of a hero to me, as is Ian Parkinson.”

Like so many others involved in this case, Murphy says he still has one regret and the true heartbreak is not knowing where Kristin is and knowing the Smarts have not been able to properly lay their daughter to rest.
“And it's important. It's important spiritually. The fact that maybe the Smarts will go to their maker without ever burying their daughter is really terribly, terribly sad. Again, if something broke and somehow we found her whereabouts, it would probably be another day for me when I would sit there and, you know, be super grateful and happy and then probably just lose it emotionally for a few minutes because, you know, I've watched them suffer for so long. It breaks my heart. I know it does.”

Murphy says the reward money offered in this case likely won't be paid and probably shouldn’t be.
“If you're going to do great work for humanity, don't put your hand out for a check,” he said.

Murphy says he will be meeting again with the Smarts soon to decide if and how to move forward with the civil case against Flores and his parents.