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Paul Flores found guilty of murder of Kristin Smart, Ruben Flores found not guilty

SALINAS, Calif. – Over 26 years since former Cal Poly student Kristin Smart went missing in May 1996, Paul Flores, the man who has been long accused of murdering Smart, was found guilty of first-degree murder. Ruben Flores, his father who was charged as an accessory to the crime, was found not guilty.

The verdicts were read on Tuesday afternoon in a Salinas courthouse. Paul Flores' jury returned its verdict Tuesday while Ruben Flores' jury returned its verdict on Monday.

“The impact that Kristin’s disappearance and its investigation have had on the Smart family and our community, spanning a quarter century, is profound,” said San Luis Obispo CountyDistrict Attorney Dan Dow. 

“We thank them for the tremendous trust and patience they have placed in the investigation and prosecution of this terrible crime.  This verdict provides some sense of justice for Kristin, the Smarts, and our community. Today, justice delayed is not justice denied.”      

Paul Flores was accused of killing Smart because he was reportedly the last one to see her alive after an off-campus party that spring. Paul's father, Ruben Flores, was charged as an accessory to the crime for allegedly helping Paul hide and get rid of her body.

Pre-trial hearings took place in San Luis Obispo County in August 2021, but the case was moved to Monterey County in April of this year after the defense successfully argued for a change in venue because the Flores' could not receive a fair and impartial trial in San Luis Obispo County.

Paul and Ruben Flores' cases were being tried simultaneously, but each defendant had their own jury.

The trials went on for three months and faced multiple delays before the two juries handed down the verdicts. Ruben Flores' jury had to restart deliberations just a few days in after a juror was dismissed for talking about the case with his priest.

Paul Flores will be sentenced on Dec. 9. and faces 25 years to life in priso

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said that Tuesday's verdict brought justice and resolution to the Smart family.

“Kristin Smart’s disappearance is a tragic part of our Cal Poly community’s history, and our university has closely watched the case, hoping throughout for justice for Kristin and resolution for her family,” Armstrong said.

“Today’s guilty verdict is a welcome development in the pursuit of justice, and our university community hopes this brings some comfort and a measure of resolution to Kristin’s loved ones."

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said that, while he was pleased with the jury's decision to convict Paul Flores, he was disappointed that Ruben Flores was not also found guilty.

"I am extremely pleased with the jury’s decision today to convict Paul Flores for the murder of Kristin Smart. I am disappointed, however, for the acquittal of Ruben Flores as an accessory for helping conceal the crime. Even so, that does not temper my profound gratitude for the verdict against Paul Flores," he said, adding thanks to the District Attorney's Office and his Sheriff's Office staff.

"My thoughts now are with the Smart family. I made a vow to them many years ago, that we would not let Kristin’s memory be forgotten. Nor would we let her killer go unpunished. I thank them for their patience and support during this most difficult of times. This has been a very long case. A long trial. And a long road to justice. But there is no true justice until Kristin is reunited with her family," Parkinson continued.

"This investigation will not be closed until we find Kristin. As I mentioned when I announced the arrests in this case, it is my hope that we are able to bring some closure to the Smart family. Peace to our community. And justice, once and for all, for Kristin."

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Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue is the Assignment Editor and web journalist at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Jade, click here

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