A jury in Salinas, California, is now in deliberations following weeks of testimony in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of California Polytechnic State University student, Kristin Smart.
“Paul Flores murdered her and buried her under his father’s deck. It is that simple,” San Luis Obispo County Deputy Dist. Atty. Chris Peuvrelle during closing arguments, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“While the Smarts searched, Ruben accumulated trophies in his bedside nightstand and Paul kept raping women.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Flores, who attended Cal Poly in 1996 with 19-year-old Smart, is facing murder charges while Flores’ father, Ruben, 81, is facing charges of helping his son hide Smart’s body.
Both suspects were arrested in 2021 after investigators searched Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home multiple times. Investigators believe Paul Flores killed Smart at the college before hiding her body under Ruben’s shed. Smart’s remains have never been found.
Flores’ lawyer, Robert Sanger, told the court during closing arguments that no evidence exists to prove that Flores had anything to do with Smart’s presumed death, claiming that “a bunch of conspiracy theories not backed up by facts” had been told in the case.
“He is trying to bootstrap a murder where there is no evidence of murder,” Sanger said, referring to Peuvrelle’s statements.
Although separate juries are hearing the cases, both father and son are being tried at the same time at the Salinas courthouse, NBC 6 reports.
Check back for updates.
Where is Kristin?
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 investigators 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.”
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 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.”
Prosecutors are adamant that Ruben Flores belongs behind bars, claiming that he helped his son cover up the murder.
Ruben Flores’ lawyer, Harold Mesick, argued that the evidence against his client was “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”
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.
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.
[[Featured image: Kristin Smart/Family handout]