Paul Flores found guilty of murdering Kristin Smart
The last man seen with Kristin Smart was convicted Tuesday of killing the college freshman, who vanished from a California campus 26 years ago.
Jurors unanimously convicted Paul Flores of first-degree murder. The San Luis Obispo Tribune report. In a separate trial, a jury found Ruben Flores not guilty of accessory to murder for allegedly conspiring to conceal the crime. The conflicting verdicts were delivered in the same courtroom moments apart.
Smart disappeared from California Polytechnic State University over Memorial Day weekend in 1996. Her remains were never found.
Prosecutors maintain the younger Flores, now 45, killed the 19-year-old during an attempted rape on May 25, 1996, in his dorm room at Cal Poly, where both were first-year students. Smart was last seen with him as he walked her from an off-campus party, where she had become intoxicated.
His father, now 81, was accused of helping to bury the slain student behind his home in the nearby community of Arroyo Grande and later digging up the remains and moving them.
Monterey County Superior Judge Jennifer O’Keefe thanked jurors after the guilty verdict in the case of murder was announced.
“I want to express my appreciation and that of all the parties for your assistance in this case,” she said. It is a great sacrifice to serve as a jury member. … You were very attentive and conscientious throughout the case.”
At a press conference following the verdict, Smart’s father, Stan Smart, read a statement, thanking the jury and all of the authorities involved in the case.
” This has been an exhaustingly long journey with many ups and downs. However, we are grateful for the diligence and energy of both juries to review the facts and make their decisions,” he stated. Their dedication and effort has renewed our faith in the justice system. “
He also thanked Chris Lambert of “Your Own Backyard,” podcast host, for sharing his knowledge and bringing new information.
” Our family is comforted by the knowledge Kristin will be remembered and held in our hearts and memories,” he said. We will never be able express our gratitude to everyone, but we are grateful for the support and love that each of you have shown us throughout this difficult, overwhelming, and emotional journey. We will always be stronger together. “
He concluded his statement by sending a message to his daughter.
” Most importantly, to Kristin: Our lives were forever changed by the night you disappeared almost three decades ago. Your spirit lives on in every single one of us every day. There is not a day that goes by without you being remembered, loved, and celebrated. “
Kristin’s mother, Denise, added a brief statement expressing her gratitude.
“I want to express my gratitude to all my husband mentioned and to each person who has been the wind under our winds to get to this day,” she said. “Thank you so very much. “
Robert Sanger, the son’s defense lawyer, tried to pin the murder on someone else. He noted that Scott Peterson was also a Cal Poly student at that time.
During his closing arguments, Robert Sanger, the son’s defense lawyer, stated that no attempted rape took place and he doubted testimony from witnesses. This included a student who was in Smart’s dorm and testified to having seen Flores in Smart’s room. He also called the prosecution’s forensic evidence “junk science.” “
“This case wasn’t prosecuted for all those years because there was no evidence,” Sanger stated. It’s sad that Kristin Smart disappeared. She may have left on her own, but who knows. “
Paul Flores had long been considered a suspect in the killing. When investigators interviewed him, he had a dark eye. According to court records, he claimed that he got it while playing basketball with his friends. Later, he changed his story to claim that he had bumped his head while working at his car.
However, the father and son were only arrested in 2021 after the case was revived.
Investigators conducted dozens of fruitless searches for Smart’s body over two decades but in the past two years they turned their attention to Ruben Flores’ home about 12 miles south of Cal Poly in the community of Arroyo Grande.
Behind latticework beneath the deck of his large house on a dead end street, archaeologists working for police in March 2021 found a soil disturbance about the size of a casket and the presence of human blood, prosecutors said. The blood was too contaminated to be able to extract DNA samples.
The trial was held in Salinas, 110 miles north of San Luis Obispo, after a judge granted a defense request to move it. The defense argued that it was unlikely the Flores’ could receive a fair trial with so much much notoriety in the city of about 47,000 people.
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