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Kristin Smart

26 Years Later, Murder Trial for Cal Poly Student Kristin Smart to Move Forward Against Alleged Classmate Killer

A California man and his father will face a jury in connection with the death of Kristin Smart, a California Polytechnic State University student who hasn’t been seen since 1996.

Paul Flores, who attended the same college as Smart in 1996,  is charged with murdering Smart, 19. Flores’ father, Ruben, 81, is facing charges of helping his son hide Smart’s body. CBS 13 reports that 12 jurors and eight alternates are scheduled to be chosen for the upcoming trial.

Both father and son have pleaded not guilty. Due to the high publicity surrounding the case, a judge allowed the trial to be moved to Monterey County.

A gag order has also been placed on the case.

“This order sweeps even way beyond court staff and even judicial personnel. It includes lawyers on both sides, people working for lawyers on both sides, even witnesses to trial cannot go into court and then speak to the press about their own testimony,” a legal director at the First Amendment Coalition, David Loy, reportedly said.

“In smaller communities such as San Luis Obispo, the risk of bias is high so it is appropriate to change venue. So that is one of the ways — appropriate ways — to protect the right to a fair trial without sacrificing the right to freedom of speech.”

Opening statements are set to begin on July 6.

Kristin Smart
Kristin Smart/Handout

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Smart disappeared on May 24, 1996, after attending an off-campus party near Cal Poly. She called her parents that night at around 8:00 p.m. and left a voicemail. It was the last time they heard from her.

Paul Flores told authorities that he accompanied Smart back to the Muir Hall dorm after the party, where she lived. He said he then left and walked to his own dorm room at Santa Lucia Hall.

Flores had a black eye while speaking to investigators at the time. He explained it happened after playing basketball, but authorities were skeptical of his story. Flores later changed his story and claimed he got the black eye while working on a truck.

Eventually, Flores stopped talking to the investigators and obtained an attorney.

When investigators brought cadaver dogs to the campus, the dogs reportedly made their way to room #128 at the Santa Lucia Dorm, where Flores lived. Two dogs showed interest in a mattress on the left-hand side of the room, according to court documents, which was Flores’ side of the room.

According to CARDA dog handler, Adela Morris, there was “a strong possibility that a deceased body had been in that room.”

Paul Flores and Ruben Flores/Police Handout

The Daily Beast reported in 2016 that the authorities once had the chance to arrest Flores on rape charges prior to Smart’s disappearance. Additional women reportedly came forward afterward and said Flores also sexually assaulted them.

One of the women said she contacted the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office and reported the incident, but Flores has never been convicted of any of the alleged assaults.

Frustrated and desperate for answers, Smart’s parents filed eventually filed a civil suit against Flores for “taking the body of Kristin Smart and secreting and/or destroying the body… in a hidden place in the County of San Luis Obispo.”

Flores’ family countersued the Smart family for emotional distress. A judge later ruled that the Smarts’ lawsuit could not proceed, due to the ongoing investigation, according to The Tribune.

Ruben Flores

Ruben was arrested in 2021 at his Arroyo Grande residence, on a charge of “accessory after the fact of a felony” according to San Luis Obispo County jail records.

Prosecutors allege that Smart’s body was once buried under the elder Flores’ deck, but her remains were recently moved.

According to court documents obtained by the outlet, authorities “are in possession of biological evidence that makes them believe the victim was buried underneath (Ruben Flores’) deck at one time.”

“[There is] damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved.”

FILE – Ruben Flores, left, talks to his attorney Harold Mesick after a ruling in a San Luis Obispo, Calif. court on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Flores is accused of helping his son Paul cover up the alleged murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. A judge has ordered the Kristin Smart murder trial moved out of San Luis Obispo County in central California, saying he doubts the men charged in the 1996 killing can get a fair trial there, Wednesday, March 30, 2022. (David Middlecamp/The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP, Pool)

At this time, no bail has been granted to Paul Flores, while Ruben Flores’ bail amount was reduced from an initial $250,000 in 2021, after a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge said that it could be a while before his case is even tried, meaning he could have possibly completed a max sentence before the trial starts.

Prosecutors are adamant that Paul Ruben belongs behind bars, claiming that he helped his son cover up the murder.

“Ruben Flores has repeatedly lied over the course of 24 years and has been uncooperative with law enforcement with the specific intent of aiding Paul Flores escape prosecution,” Peuvrelle said.

“Ruben Flores has done everything possible to help his son, Paul Flores, keep the remains of Kristin Smart hidden. Additionally, due to the evidence gleaned from the excavation, it is reasonable to believe Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains.

Should he be allowed bail, it is a virtual certainty that he would use his freedom to continue his attempts to help Paul Flores thwart the prosecution in this case and continue to hide her remains.”

Paul Ruben’s lawyer, Harold Mesick, argued that the evidence against his client was “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”

Peuvrelle accused Mesick of ignoring key parts of the sealed evidence.

If convicted, Paul Flores faces 25 years to life in prison, while his father, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted, Peuvrelle said in court on Monday.

Click here to read additional information on the Smart case.

Video contains previous coverage of the case

Check back for updates.

For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Here is a previous episode on the case. 

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[Feature Photo: Kristin Smart/Handout]