His father, Ruben, is acquitted of being accessory in Kristin Smart case
Paul Flores has been found guilty of murdering Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who disappeared in May 1996.
The jury announced its verdict in the first-degree murder case Tuesday in the Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas.
A separate jury found Mr. Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, not guilty of accessory after the fact. There was an allegation that he helped to hide the body of Ms. Smart in Arroyo Grande.
Paul Flores, who is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 9, faces 25 years to life behind bars.
After the jury announced its verdicts, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley commented on the case.
“I have often said justice delayed is justice denied,” Ms. Dudley told the News-Press Tuesday. “But in this case, even though justice was delayed for so long, it has finally brought the Smart family some sense of justice.
“This would not have been possible without the continued hard work and detailed work on the part of the San Luis Obispo law enforcement officers and members of District Attorney Dan Dow’s office,” she said.
“Clearly today justice was served,” Ms. Dudley said.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told the News-Press, “I am so proud to see the murderer of Kristin Smart brought to justice due to the superb investigative and prosecutorial skills of the members of the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices.
“Because of their tenacity and indefatigable work, a high-profile cold case has been solved, and justice has been served after more than a quarter of a century,” Sheriff Brown said. “May this successful investigation and prosecution send the strong message to those who have thus far escaped justice in other cold cases that the men and women of law enforcement never give up, and may God bless the memory and the family of Kristin Smart.”
As the verdicts were read, Paul Flores, 45, and his father, Ruben Flores, 81, did not react.
After the verdicts, Ruben Flores told reporters on the courthouse steps that he felt relieved for himself but worried about his son. His attorney, Harold Messick, was with him.
And after the verdict, Ms. Smart’s father, Stan Smart, thanked Chris Lambert, producer of the “In Your Own Backyard” podcast. Investigators said Mr. Lambert brought new attention and information to the case.
Both Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested April 13, 2021, at their separate homes in connection with Ms. Smart’s disappearance more than 26 years ago.
At the time, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced the arrest during a news conference at Cal Poly.
When Sheriff Parkinson took over the Sheriff’s Office, a complete review of all the physical evidence was conducted. In late 2016, authorities discovered additional evidence that confirmed Paul was the suspect in the disappearance. Additional information was learned in 2019 following witness interviews, including some information that came to light during Mr. Lambert’s podcast.
Paul Flores was accused of killing Ms. Smart after attempting to rape her in his dorm room at Cal Poly. Both Mr. Flores and Ms. Smart were freshmen at the university.
Ms. Smart was last seen at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue in San Luis Obispo as she walked home from an off-campus party. Paul Flores was seen with her.
Ms. Smart never returned to her dormitory.
Ms. Smart’s body was never found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Paul and Ruben Flores were tried together, but there were separate juries for each defendant. The trial started July 18 in Salinas after a San Luis Obispo County judge ruled in March that a fair and impartial trial wasn’t possible for them in San Luis Obispo because of the years of publicity over the case, as well as the county’s size.