After a monthslong trial in a Monterey County courtroom, Paul Flores, the man accused of killing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart 26 years ago was found guilty of her murder Tuesday.
Paul’s father, Ruben Flores, was found not guilty of being an accessory to the murder.
The verdicts were announced about 30 minutes apart in the courtroom. The trial included two juries that deliberated the facts against each defendant separately.
Smart, 19, was a freshman when she vanished on May 25, 1996 from California Polytechnic State University’s campus in San Luis Obispo.
Paul Flores is believed to be the last person to see Smart alive as they left a party off campus. He was long thought of as the prime suspect in Smart’s disappearance.
Ruben Flores was accused of helping his son conceal her body for years.
The trial began in mid-July with various delays throughout the process. It was moved to Salinas after a judge granted the defense’s request to move the trial out of San Luis Obispo County. The disappearance of Smart is widely regarded as one of the biggest and most well-known cases in the county’s history.
Their arrests marked a major milestone in one of California’s most infamous unsolved cases.
Prosecutors alleged Paul Flores killed Smart during an attempted rape in his dorm room at Cal Poly.
Despite Smart’s body never being found, the case went to trial as prosecutors relied on testimony from members of the scientific community, witness statements, previous transgressions by Flores, and opportunity as key evidence that they say pointed to his guilt.
In what was a somewhat unconventional trial, two juries were involved in the deliberations for both defendants. San Luis Obispo County Assistant District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle made his case against one defendant to one jury and then again to a different jury for the other defendant.
A key piece of the prosecution’s case came in the form of law enforcement dogs. A month after Smart’s disappearance, cadaver dogs signaled at Flores’ dorm room, which was one of the first dominoes to lead to his identification as the main person of interest in the case.
Over the years, investigators had searched Ruben Flores’s home in Arroyo Grande but never recovered her body. Experts from the scientific community testified that evidence of blood was found in the soil under a deck at the home.
That biological evidence was considered the tipping point that led to both men being arrested.
Throughout the trial, Peuvrelle argued that Flores was a sexual predator who had a laundry list of victims. The defense argued that there was not enough evidence to conclude that Smart was dead, let alone murdered or raped.
Ultimately, one jury determined that the lack of a body was not enough to dissuade them from convicting Paul Flores. Simultaneously, the second jury opted not to convict Ruben Flores despite the same physical evidence presented.
Following his not-guilty verdict, Ruben Flores and his attorney addressed a gaggle of reporters gathered outside of the courtroom. He said he had no plans to move from the home where prosecutors alleged Smart’s body was kept.
In July 2021, the prosecution had unsuccessfully tried to add two rape charges to the complaint against Paul Flores. The accusations are being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department. It’s unclear if Flores will face charges for rape in Los Angeles County.
Check back for details on this developing story.