July 29, 2013 – Darlene Flynn, World’s Largest Shoe Collector Beaten To Death By Boyfriend
Darlene Flynn, a world-record collector who lived in a Menifee home packed with more than 15,000 shoes and shoe-themed items, once said she would be surrounded by shoes when she dies, according to The Press-Enterprise.
That prediction came true on Monday, July 22, but in a way she likely never imagined. She was beaten with a baseball bat at her Stone Lane home and found dead in her backyard pool.
Her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Justin Charles Smith, was charged Thursday with murder in Flynn’s death. Smith is alleged to have used a baseball bat as the weapon, court records show.
Smith was scheduled for arraignment Thursday afternoon but did not enter a plea. He sat in the jury box in a Riverside courtroom wearing orange jail clothes and shackles, his head bowed, looking older than his 29 years, as a crowd of journalists trained their cameras on him.
His arraignment is now set for Aug. 8 and he is being held with bail set at $1 million.
After the hearing was over, he looked into the audience and appeared to blink back tears.
He mouthed the words, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
A group of people who appeared to be Smith’s friends or family attended the hearing.
Flynn, 58, was in the Guinness Book of World Records for her collection and had been the subject of newspaper articles and television shows about collectors. Her trove of shoes filled every room of her home. There was a bird house made out of a boot hanging from the eaves, and decorative shoes in her yard and filling her garage.
“I am very crazy obsessed with shoes,” Flynn had said on a show about collectors on the cable television channel TLC. “I’ll be surrounded by shoes when I die.”
Smith had appeared with her on the show. Shirtless and wearing an apron, he prepared Flynn a shoe-shaped breakfast in bed and talked about the frustrations of life with a collector.
About 2 p.m. Monday, deputies went to Flynn’s home in the 28800 block of Stone Lane, near Menifee Road and Highway 74 in the Romoland area, where there had been a report of a man and woman yelling, Riverside County sheriff’s officials said.
Deputies saw a shirtless man running away from the property and found Flynn dead in her backyard pool. It was unclear how long she had been dead.
Smith was arrested later that day.
A friend, Lenore Rice, said Smith’s and Flynn’s relationship had been “volatile” and that they were no longer in a relationship. Neighbors reported hearing frequent arguments coming from Flynn’s home.
Court records show Smith sold one of Flynn’s cars last year without her permission. He pleaded guilty in September to misdemeanor theft and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and probation.
In a small claims court filing, Flynn alleged that Smith owed her more than $9,700, including $3,000 for the sale of her car.
Rice, 71, of Menifee, said Flynn told her that Smith was living with her again because he was doing work around her house to pay back what he owed.
Rice said Flynn, in a recent conversation, described Smith as having changed for the better.
“She said, ‘He’s a whole different person. But that doesn’t mean I’m going back with him.’”
[Sources: Press Enterprise, Daily Mail]