Kristin Smart: Paul Flores found guilty of student’s 1996 murder

Paul Flores was found guilty of murdering the 19-year-old college student in 1996, while a separate jury found his father Ruben was not guilty of helping to conceal her body

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 19 October 2022 09:10 BST
Paul Flores found guilty of murdering student Kristin Smart

A jury found Kristin Smart’s former classmate Paul Flores guilty of her first-degree murder on Tuesday, ending a 26 year wait for justice for her family.

His father Ruben Flores was found not guilty of being an accessory to the murder after a three and a half month trial in Monterey, California.

Smart, a student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, vanished in May 1996 while walking home from a party.

Her body has never been found, and the murder remained unexplained for 25 years until prosecutors charged Paul Flores, now 45, with murder in April 2021.

The two men were tried at the same time but had separate juries deciding their fate.

Paul Flores had been an early suspect in Smart’s disappearance, and was the subject of a wrongful death suit brought by her family in the 1990s.

Kristin Smart was last seen walking back to her dorm from an off-campus party on 25 May 1996 (Sacramento Bee/Shutterstock)

When investigators came to interview him he had a black eye, which he blamed on a basketball game with friends.

They denied his account, and he later changed his story to say he bumped his head on a car, the Associated Press reported.

Paul Flores was found guilty of the murder of Kristin Smart on Tuesday (AP 2021 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo))
Ruben Flores was found not guilty of helping his son conceal Smart’s body (AP 2021 The Tribune (San Luis Obispo))

It was only after renewed attention on the case after the release of Chris Lambert’s podcast Your Own Backyard in 2019 that the investigation ramped up again.

When the Floreses were arrested in 2021, authorities credited the podcast with bringing “valuable” new information forward.

On 24 May 1996, Smart attended an off-campus party with her roommate Margarita Campos and fellow students at California Polytechnic State University, known as Cal Poly.

The pair separated as Ms Campos wanted to return to their dorm room early, while Smart stayed out.

According to prosecutors, Paul Flores murdered Smart while attempting to rape her at his dorm room.

They maintained he was the last person to see Smart alive and walked home with her after she became intoxicated.

Prosecutors told the jury that his father helped bury the first-year student behind his home in nearby Arroyo Grande, and later dug up the remains and moved them.

Over the years investigators conducted dozens of searches in the San Luis Obispo area for Smart’s body.

In march 2021, archaeologists found a soil disturbance about the size of a coffin and the presence of human blood at Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.

The blood did not yield a positive DNA sample, but prosecutors were able to convince a jury using circumstantial evidence and Paul Flores’ shifting statements over the years.

The trial was moved from San Luis Obispo County 110 miles north to Salinas, after the defence argued it would be impossible for the father and son to receive fair trial given the high-profile nature of the case.

A not guilty verdict was reached in Ruben Flores’ case on Monday, and that decision was sealed pending the jury reaching a decision in Paul Flores’ murder trial.

She was declared legally dead in 2002.

Paul Flores faces 25 years or life in prison.

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