Kristin Smart went missing 25 years ago on a college campus in California. On Tuesday, the last person seen with her was found guilty of her murder.
As the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports, all jurors agreed that Paul Flores was guilty of first-degree murder. Flores was a college friend of Smarts at the time.
In a separate trial, his father, Ruben Flores, was charged with aiding and abetting the crime because he helped cover it up. However, a different jury found him not guilty.
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Stan Smart, Kristin’s father, said at a news conference after the verdict was announced, “This has been a long, painful journey with more downs than ups.” “This verdict is neither happy nor joyful without Kristin.”
Smart never showed up at California Polytechnic State University the weekend of May 30, 1996. No one ever found her body.
In 2019, a local reporter did a true-crime podcast about Smart’s disappearance. This reignited interest in the case. Although Paul Flores was interviewed by police immediately after the murder, he was not initially arrested or charged.
In 2020, search warrants were issued for properties owned by Paul Flores and his family. In 2021, both Flores and his father were arrested and charged with Smart’s murder after Paul Flores was named the “prime suspect” in the case.
Prosecutors now allege that Paul Flores, who is now 45, killed the 19-year-old on May 25, 1996, in his room at the Cal Poly dormitory when he tried to rape her. Both were first-year students at the time. He was the last person seen with Smart. He accompanied her home after she got drunk at an off-campus party.
His father, now 81, was accused of helping bury Smart behind his home in Arroyo Grande, a nearby town, and then digging up and transporting the body. The charges against him were dropped by a jury. In the same courtroom, the different verdicts were read right after the other.
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Paul Flores had long been suspected of being involved in the murder. When police spoke to him, he had a black eye. He said he got it while playing basketball with friends, but court records show that his friends did not believe him. He later changed his story and said he hit his head while working on his car.
Investigators searched for Smart’s body dozens of times over 20 years but never found it. For the past two years, they have focused on the home of Ruben Flores in Arroyo Grande, which is 12 miles (20 km) south of Cal Poly.
Archaeologists working for the police in March 2021 found human blood and a hole in the ground the size of a coffin behind the latticework under the deck of his large house on a dead-end street. It was too old to get a DNA sample from the blood.
Robert Sanger, the son’s defense attorney, tried to blame the murder on someone else. He pointed out that Scott Peterson, who was later found guilty in a very public trial of murdering his pregnant wife and the baby she was carrying, was also a Cal Poly student at the time.
In his closing argument, Sanger told jurors that there had been no attempted rape, and he challenged the testimony of witnesses such as a student who lived in Smart’s dorm and claimed to have seen Paul Flores in Smart’s room. He also called the forensic evidence presented by the prosecution “junk science.”
The trial was held in Salinas, which is 110 miles north of San Luis Obispo The defense asked the judge to move the trial, and the judge agreed. The Flores men were so well known in the town of 47,000 that the defense said it was unlikely they could get a fair trial.