A jury has found Paul Flores guilty in the murder of Kristin Smart.
Paul Flores was charged with first-degree murder. It is alleged he caused Smart’s death while in the commission of or attempt to commit rape. Ruben Flores, Paul’s father, was charged with accessory after the fact to the crime of murder. The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office alleges Ruben helped conceal smarts body after she was murdered.
The father and son’s cases were put together in a Monterey County courtroom in Salinas, but they are being tried separately. The verdict of one jury will not be influenced by the other. They will be read in courts at the same time, one after the other.
The trial was moved out of San Luis Obispo County after a judge ruled that the father and son Flores may not receive a fair trial due to intense media coverage around the case for more than 20 years.
Smart disappeared during her freshman year at Cal Poly in May 1996. She was last seen leaving an off-campus party and Flores has long been a person of interest in the case, but was only formally charged in April 2021.
The night she left the off-campus party, witnesses who testified in this trial told the court that Paul Flores said he would walk her home. Smart was intoxicated, according to witnesses at the party, and Paul Flores said he would walk her to her dorm.
Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, argued that Flores got Smart home safely and the last time he saw her she was alive.
During his closing arguments, Sanger also told jurors that no attempted rape occurred and he cast doubt on testimony from witnesses, including a student who was in Smart’s dorm who testified to seeing Flores in Smart’s room.
He also referred to forensic evidence offered by the prosecution as “junk science.”
The more than 12-week trial included testimony from Smart’s family, friends, forensic experts, and three women who accused Paul Flores of sexual assault as an adult in Southern California.
had long been considered a suspect in the killing. He had a black eye when investigators interviewed him. He told them he got it playing basketball with friends, who denied his account, according to court records. He later changed his story to say he bumped his head while working on his car.
In archive interviews with CBS13, Smart’s mother Denise told reporters that she believed that Paul and Ruben Flores had information about her daughter’s disappearance. The family has long been silent about the accusations Paul had anything to do with Smart’s death.
Last week, after deliberations had gotten underway, it was revealed a juror on Ruben’s jury spoke about the case with his priest. That juror was dismissed and replaced with an alternate. Ruben’s jury had to restart deliberations on Friday.
Following the jury’s decision, Smart’s family released a lengthy statement, which read in full:
“Without Kristin, there is no joy or victory with this verdict, we all know it did not have to be this way. We will never be able to hear Kristin’s engaging laughter or revel in her embrace. Her hopes and dreams will never be realized; no form of justice can bring these back. After 26 years, with today’s split verdicts, we learned that our quest for justice for Kristin will continue. We appreciate and we are beyond grateful for the diligence of both juries and our faith in the justice system has been renewed by knowing the man who took Kristin’s life will no longer be free to abuse another family or victim.
This has been an agonizingly long journey with more downs than ups, but we feel fortunate to have relied on the professional talents and commitment of Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, District Attorney Dan Dow, Beth Raub, our victim witness advocate, and paralegal Becky Cripe, and the stellar team at the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. We would also like to acknowledge Sheriff Ian Parkinson, Detective Clint Cole, District Attorney Investigator JT Camp, and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office for their tireless commitment to making Kristin a priority. The steadfast efforts of this team and so many others ultimately made this day possible.
Finally, we are also thankful for the selfless contributions of Chris Lambert. His “Your Own Backyard” podcast brought not only new information but much needed light and attention in our darkest hours by sharing Kristin’s voice and story.
Our family is comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that Kristin continues to be held in the hearts and memories of many. We will never be able to personally thank everyone, but please know our gratitude and love goes out to each of you who have been with us on this long, overwhelming, and emotional journey. We are forever stronger together.
Most importantly, to our Kristin: Almost three decades ago, our lives were irreparably changed on the night you disappeared. We hope this verdict helps deliver not just answers, but also a peace and sense of closure that have eluded us for 26 years. Know that your spirit lives on in each and every one of us, every day. Not a single day goes by where you aren’t missed, remembered, loved, and celebrated.”
Residents living in San Pedro, where Flores lived for some time, had an array of reactions. Most reported knowing him, but not well, since he often kept to himself.
“It wasn’t like we were terrified, because, again, we don’t know the facts,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, who has in-laws that live on the street. “He didn’t bother us so I wasn’t really scared. It just sucks that this happened a long time ago and they’re barely getting justice.”
The house he was living in is reportedly being rented at this time.
“I’ve never really interacted with him, it was just a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ neighborly relationship,” said Oscar Diaz, who lived down the street from Flores for years. “I never got any suspicion or anything like that, that he actually did it, cause he was very reclusive, barely came out.”
Diaz said that in the few interactions he did have with Flores, he seemed reserved and quiet.
“He wasn’t confrontational in any way, shape or form. He was more of a recluse,” he said. “He didn’t want to make any problems with anybody, but now we know why.”