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Man convicted of killing missing California college student Kristin Smart

Paul Ruben Flores.JPG
Posted at 3:50 PM, Oct 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-18 17:52:44-04

A jury on Tuesday found Paul Flores guilty of first-degree murder in the disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart more than 26 years ago.

His father, Ruben Flores, was found not guilty of accessory after the fact. He had been accused of helping hide Smart's body.

Paul Flores did not react when the guilty verdict came down. His father, who was seated directly behind him, also didn't react to the verdict.

Several of Kristin's family members were also inside the courtroom. Her mother and sister cried for several minutes after the reading of the verdict. Kristin's father and brother appeared relieved.

Susan Flores, Paul's mother, was not in the courtroom for the verdict.

While Ruben’s jury delivered their sealed verdict to Judge Jennifer O’Keefe late Monday morning, Paul’s jury took nearly two weeks to finalize a decision. However, jurors did not deliberate every day.

Closing arguments in their case wrapped up the first week of October, and two teams of 12 jurors began deliberating separately.

Paul Flores and his father, Ruben, were arrested on the morning of April 13, 2021, at their separate homes in connection with the May 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart.

Paul, 45, was charged with first-degree murder. Authorities alleged he killed the 19-year-old Cal Poly freshman while trying to rape her. Witnesses said Paul Flores was the last person to be seen with Kristin Smart before her disappearance.

Ruben Flores, 81, was charged with accessory after the fact, accused of helping cover up the alleged crime. He posted a $50,000 bond shortly after his arrest and was released from custody. Paul was denied bail and remained in custody.

The prosecution told jurors during closing arguments that the evidence was clear and showed Kristin Smart was dead and was killed by Paul Flores; however, the defense argued that the case was straightforward and there was no evidence of a murder.

While Kristin’s body has never been found, she was declared legally dead in 2002.

The trial for the pair got underway in a Salinas courtroom on July 18 after a San Luis Obispo County Judge ruled in March that Paul and Ruben Flores would likely not receive a fair and impartial trial in the county, mainly due to years of publicity in the case and San Luis Obispo County’s size.
While Paul and Ruben Flores were tried together, they each had separate juries who heard separate opening statements and closing arguments and, at times, were not permitted in the courtroom if evidence or testimony presented only pertained to one defendant’s case.

Only Paul’s jury was present for the reading of his verdict, and the same for Ruben’s jury when his verdict was read.

Ruben’s jury was instructed not to speak with anyone about their decision after handing the sealed envelope containing their decision to the judge on Monday. They were also told not to speak with members of Paul’s jury until both verdicts were announced.

Dozens of witnesses were called to testify throughout the trial, including Kristin’s parents, college friends, forensic analysts, detectives, and acquaintances of Paul Flores, some detailing interactions or conversations they had with him around the time Kristin went missing.

Law enforcement who handled the early parts of the investigation were also called to the stand along with two women who testified to having been sexually assaulted and raped by Paul Flores in Southern California.

Members of the Smart family have been in the courtroom throughout the more than two-month-long trial.

Susan Flores, Paul’s mother, was in attendance for the beginning and ending portions of it as well.

Paul Flores is scheduled to be sentenced on December 9. He faces a sentence of 25 years to life behind bars.

This story was originally published by KSBY in California's Central Coast.