The murder of Kristin Smart: 26 years on Paul Flores found guilty, but with no body her family has no closure

The murder of Kristin Smart: 26 years on Paul Flores found guilty, but with no body her family has no closure
Paul Flores was the last person to see Kristin Smart on the day of her death (FBI / San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA: Paul Flores was found guilty of murdering Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly college freshman, who went missing while walking home from a frat party over two decades ago.

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Paul, now 45, was the last person spotted with Kristin Smart, 19, as they headed toward the campus dormitories of California Polytechnic State University on May 25, 1996. He will be sentenced on December 9 and faces the possibility of life in prison. Investigators claimed his father, Ruben Flores, 81, assisted his son in concealing Smart's body, but he was found not guilty of being an accomplice to the murder. Ruben will be immediately discharged from electronic monitoring.

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The family of Smart was present in court to see their daughter's murderer, who had been at large for many years, getting apprehended. After the verdict was announced, Kristin's father, Stan Smart, had a smile on his face and hugged his wife, Denise, who was sobbing, according to The San Luis Obispo Tribune.

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The Kristen Smart 1996 murder case trial began on Monday, July 18. The prime suspect was arrested last year (Credits: Paul Flores (L), Kristin Smart (inset), and Ruben Flores (R)/ (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office)
The Kristen Smart 1996 murder case trial began on Monday, July 18. The prime suspect was arrested last year (Credits: Paul Flores (L), Kristin Smart (inset), and Ruben Flores (R)/ (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office)

Smart, a first-year student at California Polytechnic State University, was found unconscious on a lawn early on May 25, 1996, after binge drinking at an off-campus frat party. Smart was spotted by two classmates who assisted her in getting to her dorm room. Due to the close proximity of his room to Smart's, a third student, later identified as Paul, joined the group and allegedly promised the other two students that he would get Smart safely home. Smart was never heard from again, and searches made after her abduction were in vain.

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Although her body has not yet been discovered, authorities suspect Paul killed her during an attempted rape even though she was legally pronounced dead in 2002. In March 2021, while police deployed cadaver dogs to explore Ruben's home in Arroyo Grande, they identified Paul as the "primary suspect" in the 19-year-old's disappearance. Ian Parkinson, the sheriff of San Luis Obispo County, claimed at the time that Paul's status as a suspect changed in 2016 as a result of newly discovered, unnamed evidence. While his father was detained on accusations of being an accessory to murder, Paul was charged with Smart's murder.

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At least two residences connected to the Flores family were where investigators claimed to have located numerous physical and forensic materials tied to Smart. Investigators discovered biological evidence that "makes them suspect the victim was buried underneath [Ruben's] deck at one time," according to the prosecution, and Ruben is accused of helping bury Smart's body before relocating it in 2020. Following his arrest, detectives examined the Ruben's house and were spotted tearing down a deck that links to the property's foundation. The unidentified investigator continued by saying that recent examinations of the house had turned up "damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved."

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