RIVERSIDE – A Menifee man accused of fatally beating his 58-year- old girlfriend — a renowned footwear collector — must stand trial for murder, a judge ruled today.
Justin Charles Smith, who turns 30 later this month, could face 26 years to life in prison if convicted of the July 2013 killing of Darlene Flynn, whose vast collection of shoes and shoe-related products landed her in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006.
Smith is charged with murder and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon — a baseball bat — during the commission of a felony.
Following a 30-minute preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Prevost found there was sufficient evidence to bound Smith over for trial and scheduled a post- preliminary hearing in the case for Feb. 25.
The defendant remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
Deputies were called to the victim’s residence in the 28800 block of Stone Lane around 2 p.m. last July 22 after receiving calls about a domestic disturbance involving a man and woman screaming at one another.
Deputies knocked on the front door of the house repeatedly but received no response, said sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Torrenti, then noticed a shirtless man running from the rear of the residence. A perimeter was established, and Smith was located hours later near the intersection of Briggs Road and Highway 74 and arrested without incident.
Back at the house, deputies pulled Flynn’s lifeless body out of her backyard pool. According to sheriff’s homicide Investigator Robert Stites, the victim had been struck at least five times with a baseball bat.
Flynn, dubbed ”The Shoe Lady” and the ”Queen of Sole,” had amassed more than 16,000 shoes and shoe-related products. The possessions, including heels, sneakers, boots, stockings — even pillows shaped as shoes — had an estimated value in excess of $500,000, according to published reports.
Smith was living with Flynn at the time of the fatal assault. The two had been profiled together months earlier in a television show about her collection.
The defendant has a prior misdemeanor conviction for grand theft from September 2012, which District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall said was the result of the defendant selling Flynn’s car without her permission.
Smith was sentenced to three years probation in that case.