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Kristin Smart vanishing suspect was later accused of sexually assaulting women in L.A.

In February of 2020 Paul Flores was released from custody after his home and vehicles were searched in San Pedro. Sheriff deputies search the home of a suspect Paul Flores in the case of missing student Kristin Smart who vanished from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo nearly 24 years ago. He has since been arrested. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Fourteen years ago, police in Redondo Beach were called to a hospital where a woman had come after waking up in a stranger’s bed, naked and with no memory of what had happened. She believed she had been raped.

An examination confirmed she’d had sex with a man. Police uploaded his DNA profile to a law enforcement database and, a few years later, it matched to a name: Paul Ruben Flores.

Redondo detectives opened a rape investigation into Flores. Although he was not charged in the case, the DNA hit sounded alarms 200 miles north in San Luis Obispo, where Flores was the prime suspect in the enduring mystery of Kristin Smart’s disappearance and presumed death.

Smart, a 19-year-old freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had vanished on Memorial Day weekend in 1996. She was last seen walking with Flores, a classmate, but without sufficient evidence tying him to the crime, he remained free.

For the next quarter of a century, Flores was dogged by his ties to the Smart case. He moved to Los Angeles County’s South Bay, but detectives continued to pursue him, tapping his phones, seizing his computers and digging up his parents’ yards in search of Smart’s remains.

When Flores was charged with Smart’s murder this month, prosecutors and police made clear the years that Flores spent in Southern California had bolstered their long-held suspicions that he had killed Smart, and helped them build a case against him.

What appeared on the surface to be a mundane life was in fact one marked by troubling encounters with police. The alleged rape in Redondo Beach, which has not previously been reported, was one of multiple cases in which Flores was suspected of sexually assaulting women. He is also a suspect in two more recent alleged sexual assaults being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department, authorities say.

Flores, 44, has not been charged with any sex crimes stemming from his time in Southern California. He has pleaded not guilty to Smart’s murder, which authorities allege he committed while attempting to rape her. Flores’ attorney said in court this week he “denies every allegation.” Flores’ 80-year-old father, who is charged with being an accessory to murder, has also pleaded not guilty. He is accused of helping his son hide Smart’s body, which has never been found.

Neighbors and others who encountered Flores during the 20 years he lived in San Pedro and Lawndale, a small city near Los Angeles International Airport, described him as a solitary man who drank heavily and acted erratically.

A few months after moving into her home in San Pedro, Elena Palleschi was putting up a fence when Flores came over and offered to help. After helping her hoist a few two-by-fours into place, Flores invited her over for a glass of red wine, she said.

She was ready with her answer. Before she had moved in, Palleschi’s landlady had said she believed she had an obligation to tell her that the man who lived in the small green house next door with aging cars parked outside was a suspect in a killing.

“I don’t drink red wine,” Palleschi told Flores.

Palleschi said she came to know Flores as quick-tempered and prone to fits of anger over parking and his dogs. He accused neighbors of blocking his driveway with their cars, and Palleschi said he once banged on her door at night, accusing her of spraying his dogs with a hose as she watered her garden.

Frank Romero, who has lived next to Flores since 2017, said Flores shared few details of his life and never brought up Smart, despite his ties to her case being an open secret among neighbors. Fliers would periodically appear on light poles on Flores’ street that identified him as a person of interest in her disappearance — their source unknown.

Romero recalled that each morning Flores would lift the hood of his cream-colored 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air, fiddle with the engine until it roared to life, and “take off real loud.” He never asked Flores where he was going, although Flores once told the police he worked as a mover for a company in Willowbrook, according to an arrest report.

The only time Flores seemed in any mood to socialize, Romero said, was when he was drunk. He’d come uninvited to Romero’s home, smelling of beer, and hit on Romero’s female friends, he said.

“You could tell when he was drinking,” he said. “He’d get loud, belligerent. Obnoxious.”

His clumsy attempts at flirting left the women uncomfortable, Romero said. “He was pushy. He’d grab their hand, kiss it, keep repeating himself: ‘Oh, you’re so lovely,’” Romero said.

In Lawndale, where Flores lived in a small back house before moving to San Pedro, neighbors recalled similar behavior. Flores was awkward, a heavy drinker who didn’t seem to understand or respect boundaries, said one woman, who asked not to be identified because Flores’ relatives still live at the property.

On a few occasions, he tried to scale a wall between their homes in an attempt to socialize with her family without being asked, she recalled.

Flores frequented bars on Artesia Boulevard about a mile from his home, according to the neighbor, who said she worked as a bartender at one of them. She said she believed Flores kept to bars close to his home because he had lost his license and only walked or rode a bicycle for several years. Police records show Flores has been convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Flores’ drinking led to run-ins with police. His record includes at least five convictions — one of them a felony — for driving drunk in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, as well as a conviction for being drunk in public, according to court records.

And in 1998, two years after Smart disappeared, Flores was arrested by the Huntington Beach police on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, according to a criminal history report filed in court. He wasn’t prosecuted for lack of evidence, the report says.

In a letter to a judge handling one of his drunk driving cases, a counselor at a court-ordered alcohol program described Flores as an admitted alcoholic whose symptoms include “loss of control over intake” once he starts drinking. Judges have repeatedly ordered Flores to enroll in self-help courses and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as a condition of avoiding jail, according to records filed in a drunk driving case and another in which Flores was convicted of public intoxication.

Flores avoided criminal charges for sexual assault, despite being suspected of assaulting multiple women.

In a probation report inadvertently made public and obtained by the San Luis Obispo Tribune, a deputy district attorney wrote that dozens of women have described “sexual assaults and predatory behavior that document [Flores’] twenty-five years as a serial rapist.”

That report did not provide details of the alleged assaults, but since his move from California’s Central Coast to the Los Angeles area, Flores has been investigated in at least three alleged sexual assaults — the Redondo Beach case and the two in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Police Det. Daniel Aguirre said Flores is a suspect in two attacks being investigated by the LAPD that occurred in the San Pedro area between 2013 and 2017. County prosecutors have not yet decided whether to file charges against Flores, and detectives want to speak with any other potential victims of Flores, Aguirre said.

In the Redondo Beach rape investigation, a police officer’s crime report and a memo written by a county prosecutor that were reviewed by The Times describe the facts of the case and the decision not to bring charges against Flores.

One January night in 2007, the woman met some friends at BAC Street Lounge. She told police later that she remembered drinking two vodka cocktails, a shot and some beer. The last thing she could recall was sitting on a bar stool.

She awoke in a stranger’s bed, naked and wrapped in a blanket. She had no memory of meeting the man beside her or having sex with him, she told police. The man pointed her in the direction of Artesia Boulevard and she walked home, still feeling intoxicated.

In the police report, the officer noted the woman said she had consumed similar amounts of alcohol on other nights and had not become so incapacitated. “She strongly believes that she ingested an unknown substance to cause her to feel the way she did,” the officer wrote.

The medical exam at a hospital confirmed she’d had sex, although it showed “no obvious indication of force or assaultive behavior,” according to the prosecutor’s memo. Her urine had no trace of date rape drugs, the document says.

Four years later, the DNA sample collected from the woman’s body was identified as belonging to Flores, Redondo Beach Police Lt. Fabian Saucedo said. Questioned by the police, Flores said he had no “particular recollection” of the woman or the incident, according to the prosecutor’s memo. “He stated it was possible he had sex with her since he has had sex with many girls,” the document says.

Investigators asked the woman to pick her assailant from a lineup. She wasn’t able to identify Flores as the perpetrator, Saucedo said.

When Redondo Beach police spoke with a bartender at the lounge, she told them she had already been interviewed by police from San Luis Obispo, who “were investigating a 1996 case in which the suspect was the last known person seen with a student from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,” according to the memo.

The bartender told the San Luis Obispo officers that she didn’t know much about Flores, whom she described as a “sometimes customer.” She didn’t remember seeing Flores leave with the woman in the 2007 case, and she couldn’t recall him doing anything suspicious that night, the memo says.

Another customer had confided in the bartender that she’d had a “similar experience” with Flores, but had never reported it to the police and had “no desire to do so now,” the prosecutor wrote.

Los Angeles County prosecutors chose not to charge Flores with rape. “The DNA hit only proves that there was some type of sexual contact,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Christi Frey wrote in the memo, “but not what the nature of that contact was.” While Flores very well may have “taken advantage” of the woman’s drunken state, it couldn’t be proved beyond a doubt that she didn’t go to his apartment and have sex willingly, Frey concluded.

The assault allegations in Southern California could figure into the Smart case. Because Flores is accused of killing Smart during the commission of a rape, prosecutors may be allowed to raise instances of other, uncharged sexual misconduct to show his propensity for sexual assaults.

If Flores’ case goes to trial and San Luis Obispo prosecutors present testimony that Flores has preyed on women in the years after Smart disappeared, as they have said in court papers that they intend to do, it would broaden the scope of the trial significantly.

Along with aging witnesses trying to recall memories from 25 years ago, others who have allegedly crossed paths with Flores more recently could be called to testify.

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Woman who hit Hispanic, Black children with Jeep pleads guilty to hate crimes, attempted murder

DES MOINES, Iowa — A mentally ill Iowa woman who struck two children with her Jeep in 2019 because they were Black and Hispanic pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal hate crime charges in the case.

Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, 43, of Des Moines, admitted that she targeted the children, a Black 12-year-old boy and a Hispanic 14-year-old girl, because of their race. Poole Franklin believed the boy was of Middle Eastern or African descent, and she believed the girl was “a Mexican,” according to authorities.

Poole Franklin also pleaded guilty to attempted murder charges in state court Thursday, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Nicole Poole Franklin attempted to kill two children because she thought they came from another country,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “All people in the United States, regardless where they come from, have the right to be free from fear of violence because of who they are. The Justice Department will continue to protect the civil rights of all individuals and prosecute hate crimes, as we have done in this case.”

The Des Moines Register reported that Poole Franklin said in federal court Wednesday that she believed the 12-year-old boy was Middle Eastern and an Islamic terrorist.

At 3:38 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2019, Poole Franklin spotted the boy and his sibling walking on a sidewalk in a Des Moines apartment complex. She drove her 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee over the curb and onto the sidewalk, striking the 12-year-old. The boy suffered cuts, bruises and swelling to his leg.

Poole Franklin drove away without stopping. Witnesses told police the vehicle that struck the child accelerated prior to hitting him.

That incident was captured on surveillance footage, authorities said.

>> Related story: Iowa woman charged in second hit-and-run of child; victims are Hispanic, Black

Around 30 minutes later, Poole Franklin was in nearby Clive, where she saw the Hispanic victim walking near Indian Hills Junior High School. She again intentionally drove up onto the sidewalk and struck the girl, identified at the time as Natalia Miranda.

Miranda, whose name became public when she and her parents spoke to the media, was walking to a basketball game at the school when she was hit. She lay, unconscious in the snow, for several minutes before regaining consciousness and stumbling the remaining few blocks to the school, where she got help.

Miranda suffered a concussion, cuts, bruises and swelling. She spoke to KCCI in Des Moines two days after the crash as she recovered at her family’s home.

“I don’t remember the impact, I just remember the car coming towards me,” the teen said.

>> Related story: Iowa woman admits striking 14-year-old girl with car because she is ‘a Mexican,’ police say

Poole Franklin later told detectives she’d smoked meth a few hours before the attacks.

She was arrested about an hour after the attack on Miranda. According to police, Poole Franklin went to a West Des Moines Conoco gas station, where she was accused of berating the clerk, taking and eating items she had not paid for and throwing objects at the clerk, who co-owns the store with his brother.

A witness, Kevin Reed, told the Register in 2019 that he was in the store when he saw Poole Franklin throwing bags of potato chips, referring to people by racial and ethnic slurs and destroying merchandise.

She was charged with assault, operating under the influence, theft and public intoxication in that incident, the Register reported. It was not immediately clear Monday if those charges are still pending or if they were to be dropped as part of her plea agreement.

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said last week that the organization was pleased with Poole Franklin’s guilty pleas.

“We welcome this guilty plea as the culmination of a law enforcement effort to hold the perpetrator accountable,” Hooper said in a statement obtained by the Register. “It is our hope that the court will impose a sentence that reflects the severity of the crime, as well as the victims’ wishes.”

>> Read more trending news

Betty Andrews, head of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, said Iowa and the U.S. have a “long way to go to reach a space where every human is valued equally.”

“We continue to be concerned about the cultural trauma (Poole Franklin’s) victims have experienced, and how this can be addressed in times where people of color continue to be targeted for their skin,” Andrews said.

Poole Franklin, who is scheduled for sentencing May 28 on the state charges, faces up to 25 years in prison on each attempted murder charge.

The federal hate crime charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each charge. According to Poole Franklin’s plea agreement, prosecutors are recommending she serve 27 years in prison, to run at the same time as her sentence on the state charges.

Nicole Poole Franklin Federal Plea Agreement by National Content Desk on Scribd

Her sentence is at the sole discretion of the judge, however. Her federal sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 19.

Poole Franklin, who has an extensive criminal history, as well as a long history of mental illness, had been declared incompetent to stand trial in February 2020. The judge reversed her decision three months later after a doctor reevaluated her, the Register reported last year.

She told the court Wednesday that she suffers from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Miranda and her family were in federal court Wednesday as Poole Franklin admitted to the crimes. The girl’s father, Cesar Miranda, told CNN that the family had sympathy for Poole Franklin, despite the trauma she’d inflicted upon them, because “it’s just a person that has a lot of problems.”

>> Read more true crime stories

Cesar Miranda told the network he’d always felt blessed to live in the U.S. but that the incident with his daughter make him lose “the hope and the feeling of being free in this country.”

“It’s just hard to believe that someone can have the heart to do that to somebody, to hurt someone just because they believe you’re Mexican, believe you are Latino, or your skin color and just think you don’t deserve to be here,” he said.

Watching the court proceedings brought a little of that hope back.

“This just gave me a little hope to say, ‘I can live here, my kids can live here. We can walk anywhere, we can live in any corner of this country without anybody judging us because of skin color or where they think we are from or whether they think we deserve to live here,’” Miranda said. “We deserve to live here, and there’s is no place on this Earth that any human being should say, ‘You don’t belong here.’”

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Man says he tried to cover up when urinating in resident’s yard

  1. Community News
MV 3
Mayfield Village police


Public indecency: Beech Hill Drive

A resident said April 18 that a neighbor was having pool work done and that one of the workers had exposed himself and urinated on the property.

Officers spoke to the North Royalton man, 23, who said it was an emergency and that he had tried to conceal himself as much as he could. He was warned about such behavior.

Disturbance: Wilson Mills Road

Officers responded April 13 to the parking lot near the stadium at Mayfield High School on a report of a disturbance between a man and a woman.

They learned that the woman, 37, was drunk and arguing with her boyfriend, who said he was trying to stop her from driving with her children. She was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct-public intoxication.

Civil matter: Beta Drive

A woman reported April 15 that a clerk at the Hilton Garden Inn was harassing her about moving her vehicle. Officers learned that the Highland Heights woman, 60, felt she could take up two parking spaces with her vehicle because she had paid for two rooms.

She said she did not want to move her vehicle because it contained several items. The staff decided it did not want her at the hotel. Officers advised her that she had to pack her belongings and leave, and if she returned, she would be charged with trespassing.

Disturbance: North Commons Boulevard

Officers checked on a possible fight in a vehicle in a parking lot April 15. A man, 18, was found to be upset and kicking his own vehicle. He was with two girls, who were subsequently released to their parents. The man was sent on his way after it was confirmed that the trio had only been arguing.

Civil matter: Wilson Mills Road

A woman said April 16 that the property manager for her home was possibly entering it without her permission. Officers advised her to tell her landlord to contact her when work is going to be done at the home.

Disturbance: Wilson Mills Road

Around 1 a.m. April 18, a resident reported two unknown male suspects in parked vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway. She said the house was dark and she did not know if the homeowner was home.

Officers did not locate the parked vehicle and could not contact the homeowner. Special attention was given.

Impaired driving: SOM Center Road

A South Euclid man, 31, was arrested for OVI after he was found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle at the Highland Road intersection around 3:30 a.m. April 18.

Fraud: Hanover Road

A 67-year-old resident reported April 18 that he was the victim of an AT&T scam and had purchased $500 worth of eBay gift cards. He had received a phone call from someone claiming he could lower his rates, but needed to purchase the gift cards upfront.

The value of the cards was depleted almost immediately after he provided the redemption codes. He became suspicious when he was asked to buy more cards.

Impaired driving: Eastgate Drive

At 7:53 p.m. April 19, a resident reported that a vehicle had struck trash cans in the area. Responding officers located the vehicle driving on the side of SOM Center Road in the curb lane.

The driver, a 62-year-old Mayfield Heights woman, was arrested and charged with OVI. Lab results will determine what she was under influence of at the time of the arrest.

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Interstate 65 pursuit reportedly leads to OWI, neglect arrest

11/6/17 Indiana State Police
Exponent File Photo

A 35-year-old woman faces nine preliminary charges including operating while intoxicated and neglect of a dependent after an alleged pursuit on Interstate 65. 

Kyra King, 35, from Hammond, Indiana, was arrested Wednesday about 4 p.m. after Indiana State Police received a call regarding a possibly impaired driver, according to an ISP press release.

King was reportedly traveling southbound on Interstate 65 in the Lafayette area. When an ISP officer attempted to pull over King for multiple traffic violations, King reportedly continued southbound below the posted speed limit and was unable to stay in her lane.

The officer advised ISP dispatch that he could not see inside King’s vehicle due to the window tint, per the release.

The pursuit continued southbound from mile marker 170 until the 158 mile marker, where King attempted to exit the interstate but reportedly got stopped in traffic on the exit ramp.

While taking King into custody, state troopers found a juvenile in the vehicle and took the juvenile to a safe location, according to the release. Troopers contacted the Department of Child Services, who picked up the juvenile.

According to the release, further investigation revealed King to be under the influence of alcohol. King was then transported to a Frankfort hospital for medical evaluation and a certified test. King allegedly refused the take a certified test and was taken back into custody.

While in custody, she began to kick the front windshield of the state trooper’s police vehicle, causing it to crack. The officer then requested the assistance of Frankfort Police Department, according to the release. Frankfort police took  King to Clinton County Jail without further incident.

King faces nine preliminary charges varying from level 6 felonies to misdemeanors, including resisting law enforcement with a vehicle, neglect of a dependent, OWI with a passenger less than 18 years of age, OWI with a prior conviction, OWI endangerment, resisting law enforcement, criminal mischief and OWI refusal.

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Republican arrested for DUI after cops find his Corvette ‘parked under a minivan’

Texas Republican arrested for DUI after cops find his Corvette 'parked under a minivan'

Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

“State Rep. Dan Huberty arrested for DWI after accident Friday night” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, was arrested in Montgomery County after crashing his Corvette into a minivan and failing a sobriety test Friday night, according to the Montgomery County Police Reporter, which posted a video of the arrest to YouTube. The video shows police detaining Huberty and towing the Corvette away.

That local news outlet reported that Montgomery County Precinct 4 constables responded to an accident in Porter and arrived to find a Corvette “parked under a minivan.” The three people in the minivan suffered minor injuries, according to the report, and the driver of the Corvette, identified as Huberty, was unharmed. The Corvette was impounded and Huberty was arrested for DWI, according to the report.

“Last night I was driving under the influence of alcohol and involved in a minor automobile accident in Montgomery County,” Huberty, who has been a member of the Texas House since 2011, posted Saturday on Facebook. “Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. I regret my actions and apologize to my constituents and my family. I am seeking treatment options to begin today.

His bail was set at $1,500 and he was bonded out within hours of his arrest, according to the report.