Paul Flores Found Guilty in 1996 Disappearance and Murder of Kristin Smart, His Father Acquitted

Defense attorney Paul Sanger and Paul Flores

"This has been an agonizingly long journey with more downs than ups, but we are grateful,” Smart’s father, Stan Smart, said.

Following a three-month-long trial, the case of Kirstin Smart’s death has finally come to a conclusion, with longtime suspect Paul Flores being found guilty of first-degree murder.

Kirstin Smart went missing in 1996, and since then, a 25-year-long investigation has been ongoing, leading to the 2021 arrest of both Paul Flores, the last person to see Smart alive, and his father, Ruben Flores, alleged to have helped move Smart's body, according to a press release from the San Luis Obispo District Attorney, Dan Dow. 

The case of Smart’s disappearance started when she went to an off-campus fraternity party over Memorial Day weekend back in May of 1996. Her friends didn’t want to go so they dropped her off and headed home. 

She was allegedly inebriated to the extent that she needed a hand getting home. As two partygoers began walking Smart home, they ran into then-freshman Paul Flores, according to an earlier report by Inside Edition Digital. He offered to walk Smart the rest of the way home, police said. She was not seen again after leaving with Flores.

Days later Flores was brought in for questioning and maintained his innocence and was never arrested or charged until 2021.  

In the recent trial, the prosecution presented evidence it said shows Flores has a history of taking advantage of women while they were intoxicated and heard evidence that Smart’s body was believed to have at one time been located under Ruben’s home, according to the DA’s statement. Smart’s remains have yet to be recovered, reported San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson. 

“We appreciate the witnesses in this case who came forward to reveal the truth about what happened to Kristin that cold night in May of 1996,” said Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle. 

Smart’s father, Stan Smart, spoke at a press conference that was held after the trial.

"This has been an agonizingly long journey with more downs than ups, but we are grateful and appreciate the diligence and energy of the two juries to thoroughly review the facts and reach their decisions," he said, according to CBS News.

According to CBS News, the younger Flores’ defense attorney, Robert Sanger, tried to blame another person.

Scott Peterson, who was convicted of killing his wife and fetus, was also a student at the victim's university, Sanger told jurors, according to CBS News. Sanger noted that Peterson could possibly be Smart’s murderer, reported the news outlet. 

Sanger’s attempts to defend his client included telling jurors that there was no rape, casting doubts on the witness's testimonies, and calling the evidence “junk science”, according to CBS News.

"This case was not prosecuted for all these years because there's no evidence," Sanger said, according to CBS News. "It's sad Kristin Smart disappeared, and she may have gone out on her own, but who knows?"

Paul Flores is facing a 25-years-to-life sentence in prison for the murder of Kirstin Smart. He is set to be sentenced in December, according to the DA. According to the Los Angeles Times, Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores' attorney expect's Sanger to appeal the conviction and possibly use Ruben Flores' verdict to support the argument.

Reuben Flores, initially arrested and prosecuted for allegedly being an accessory to the murder, was acquitted in the trial. Prosecutors accused him of helping to bury Smart behind his home and later digging up the remains and moving them.

“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. This investigation will not be closed until we find Kristin,” said Sheriff Parkinson.

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