San Jose: Man gets 47-year prison sentence in murder of community matriarch ‘Miss Flo’

SAN JOSE — The man who killed a beloved Black matriarch more than seven years ago is set to spend nearly a half-century in prison following his conviction and sentencing earlier this month, authorities and family members announced.

In a 2016 photo, Zachary Cuen appears for his arraignment at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice. Cuen was charged with murder after participating in a Sept. 12, 2016 home invasion robbery in San Jose in which he brutally assaulted 88-year-old Flo Douglas, who died a month after the attack. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group file photo) 

Zachary Omar Cuen, 26, received a sentence of 47 years and 8 months at a Jan. 12 court hearing attended by family and friends of 88-year-old Floavis “Miss Flo” Douglas. A longtime community leader and mentor, Douglas was  viciously assaulted by Cuen during an infamous Sept. 12, 2016 home invasion robbery at her home in North San Jose.

Cuen’s co-defendant in Douglas’ murder, 26-year-old Johnny Raymond Brown, is currently serving a prison sentence at the Sierra Conservation Center following his 2021 conviction, according to records from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Douglas’ nephew, the Rev. Michael Wallace, called her aunt’s killing a “savage and senseless crime” that shocked the city, and sought to highlight Douglas’ role as a trailblazer in her community.

Wallace said in a statement to the Bay Area News Group that his family did “not seek revenge, but justice and accountability and a sentence that’s commensurate with the severity of the crime committed.”

Prosecutors contended that Cuen, Brown and Willie Allen King, a neighbor of Douglas, carefully watched Douglas at her North Cragmont Avenue home and planned to burglarize it. But they were apparently surprised that when decided to commit the crime, Douglas was home.

Court records show that Douglas, who initially survived the encounter, told investigators that in the early morning hours, two men entered her home, demanded money and threatened to kill her. When she told the intruders she did not have any money, they punched and kicked her, knocking her to the floor, and continued to land blows on her. They left and then returned to make the same demands and reportedly kicked her several more times.

After ransacking the home, the men took off in Douglas’ car but abandoned it down the street. Cuen was arrested two days later — largely on the basis of a fingerprint found at the crime scene. He was also recorded on surveillance video approaching the home.

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Douglas spent nearly a month in the hospital before dying from her injuries on Oct. 8, 2016. Cuen, Brown and King were jailed in the ensuing months, and in December 2017 a criminal grand jury indicted them in connection with Douglas’ death. King was charged with conspiracy but not murder, and was convicted around the same time as Brown.

Flo “Miss Flo” Douglas, 88, of San Jose, was the victim of a vicious home invasion robbery in Sept. of 2016, in which Zachary Omar Cuen, 26, beat and killed her. Cuen received a 47-year, 8-month sentence at a Jan. 12, 2024, court hearing. (Courtesy Douglas family) 

At Cuen’s sentencing, Douglas’ family recounted — as they did in the wake of her death — her 50 years as a faithful member at he St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church of San Jose. Once a Sunday school teacher and Women’s Mission Union leader at the church, Douglas was one of the first Black beauty salon owners in the city who made her shop, named Sisters, a place to teach, train and mentor young beauticians.

Douglas grew up on a large farm her grandfather owned in the east Texas city of Carthage near the Louisiana border. She followed her older brother to Northern California and settled in San Jose in 1964.

Even in retirement, she still did hair in her house on Saturdays to help women get ready for Sunday services and teach young women her profession. At the time of her death, family members said she was still able to drive during the day, and was in excellent health.

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