Verdicts have been reached in the trial of Paul Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, in connection with the 1996 disappearance and presumed death of California Polytechnic University student Kristin Smart.
A jury at the Monterrey County Superior Court in California found Paul Flores guilty of murder, The Tribune reports.
The defendants’ trials were held at the same time, but they were both given a separate jury. In Ruben Flores’ case, the jury found him not guilty.
Paul Flores faces 25 years to life in prison.
Following the verdicts, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe told the jurors she appreciated their dedication and service.
“I wish to express to you the appreciation and that of the parties for your service in this case. It is a great personal sacrifice to serve as a juror… you have been very attentive and conscientious throughout this case.”
Both father and son were arrested in 2021 after investigators searched Ruben Flores’ home multiple times. Investigators said Paul Flores killed Smart at the college before hiding her body under Ruben’s shed. Smart’s remains have never been found.
Ruben was arrested 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 said 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.”
Kristin Smart’s Disappearance, Presumed Death
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.
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[[Featured image: L-R, Paul Flores, Kristin Smart, and Ruben Flores/police handout]