Paul and Ruben Flores Convicted in the Kristin Smart Murder Case
Paul Flores has been found guilty of first-degree murder in connection with Kristin Smart’s disappearance more than 26 years ago at Cal Poly. However, Ruben Flores was found not guilty of accessory after the fact charges which accused him of helping hide her body. Both men will be sentenced later in December.
After Smart’s disappearance in 1996, police quickly identified Flores as her last known living person. He had seen her walking back from an off-campus party when she told friends she planned on asking him for a ride home, yet never did so. At trial one of Smart’s close friends testified she had been sexually abused by Paul who had been described as creepy and aggressive towards women; another friend claimed she had been too kind in telling him off; Paul saw Smart as “d**k tease.”
Prosecutors believe two individuals murdered and buried Smart in Ruben’s backyard in Arroyo Grande before transporting her body to a landfill. Chris Lambert launched an influential true crime investigation podcast into this case that has brought new leads and tips.
Authorities conducted an exhaustive search of the area and discovered a soil disturbance beneath latticework behind Ruben’s backyard deck, where blood had been found that appeared similar to that of Smart. Unfortunately, their DNA testing proved inconclusive due to it reacting with ferret and higher primate blood samples as well.
Jurors believed they had sufficient evidence against Paul and Ruben to convict them of covering up the crime of hiding it under their deck, reports Tribune of San Luis Obispo. When the alternate juror joined, the entire panel welcomed her and explained their decision-making process – discussing both men individually, including whether Ruben knew that there was a body under his deck before making their verdict against them.
Trial proceedings were moved 110 miles north, as defense argued that media attention in San Luis Obispo made it difficult for them to receive a fair trial. Judge Craig Van Rooyen agreed, noting its widespread impact on local communities.
Jurors began deliberations on Oct. 4 and concluded their work Tuesday afternoon. For weeks prior to deliberations beginning, they heard arguments in the case, including closing arguments which ended on Oct. 4. Over the weekend they evaluated evidence against Paul and Ruben before beginning deliberations proper on Monday morning. A juror describes their trial as lengthy but they felt they had enough evidence against both men to come to an unanimous verdict.