Inmate suspected of stabbing convicted Kristin Smart killer also killed ‘I-5 Strangler’ in prison

The prison inmate who attacked Paul Flores, convicted killer of Kristin Smart, was serving a life term for murdering another notorious inmate in 2021, the serial killer known as the “I-5 Strangler,” the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told The Tribune.

The attack left Flores with a neck injury that sent him to the hospital for two days.

On Aug. 23 at around 10 a.m. in the Pleasant Valley State Prison yard, agency said, staff saw Flores fall to the ground between the recreational yard and the medical clinic. Staff immediately ordered everyone “to get down,” and medical staff immediately responded.

At the time, Harold Mesick, Flores’ lawyer, told The Tribune that Flores had been stabbed in the side of the neck.

Paul Flores takes a sip of water during the trial against him for the 1996 murder of Kristin Smart in the Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas on Aug. 16, 2022. Brittany Tom/NBC News Dateline
Paul Flores takes a sip of water during the trial against him for the 1996 murder of Kristin Smart in the Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas on Aug. 16, 2022. Brittany Tom/NBC News Dateline

Jason Budrow, 43, was found nearby with a “manufactured weapon,” the corrections department said. He is suspected of the attempted murder of Flores.

Budrow is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole for two separate murders, the first that sent him to prison 12 years ago and the second once he was already behind bars.

The first murder conviction was in 2011, and was his second strike under California’s Three Strikes law. He was convicted of strangling and murdering his girlfriend at the time in Riverside County.

About a decade later in March 2021, CDCR said, Budrow strangled and killed Roger Reece Kibbe, a fellow inmate at Mule Creek State Prison.

Kibbe was known as the serial rapist and killer who was dubbed the “I-5 Strangler.” He was serving six consecutive life-without-parole sentences for six counts of first-degree murder, on top of an earlier life-with-parole murder sentence.

The so-called “I-5 Strangler” Roger Reece Kibbe appears in court with San Joaquin County Deputy Public Defender Miriam Lyell, right and Jan Karowsky, in September 2009. Kibbe, 81, was strangled to death in his cell at Mule Creek State Prison in March 2021. Another inmate, Jason Budrow, was later convicted in the killing. Craig Sanders/The Stockton Record

Budrow was convicted and sentenced to his second life-without-parole sentence in April 2022, CDCR said.

In a letter sent to the San Jose Mercury News, Budrow admitted to killing Kibbe as punishment for the I-5 Strangler’s murders.

CDCR did not disclose whether they believe Budrow had a motive for the alleged attack on Flores.

After the stabbing, Flores was transported to an outside hospital in serious condition. His condition improved to fair by the next day, and he returned to the Coalinga prison on Aug. 25.

Flores is expected to make a full recovery, his lawyer said.

Flores is currently serving a 25-years-to-life sentence for the murder of Smart, the Cal Poly student who went missing over Memorial Day weekend in 1996 and has never been found.

Flores is seeking to overturn his conviction but has yet to file his appellate brief with the court.

Who was the I-5 Strangler?

In 1991, Kibbe was convicted on his first count of murder for strangling 17-year-old Darcie Frankenpohl, a runaway from Seattle living in West Sacramento, in 1987, The Sacramento Bee reported. He left her naked body at Echo Summit.

He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder. Kibbe was serving a jail term in Sacramento County for assault and attempted kidnap of a prostitute at the time of his arrest.

It wouldn’t be the first killing tied to the man who became known as the “I-5 Strangler.”

Detectives had long suspected Kibbe of murdering several other women. DNA and other crime scene evidence resubmitted in the early 2000s eventually linked Kibbe to six more murders dating back to the 1970s.

In 2008, a new San Joaquin County indictment accused him of the murders of Lou Ellen Burleigh in 1977 and the deaths of Barbara Ann Scott, Stephanie Brown, Charmaine Sabrah, Katherine Kelly Quinones and Lora Heedrick — all in 1986.

In 2009, Kibbe pleaded guilty to the new murder counts with special enhancements for rape and kidnapping.

In 2021, detectives told The Sacramento Bee they believe Kibbe may have killed several more victims in the gap between his first known murder in 1977 and his killing spree from 1986-1987.