Jury Finds Paul Flores Guilty of 1996 Murder of Kristin Smart


By Laurel Spear


MONTEREY COUNTY – On Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, a jury in Monterey County found Paul Flores guilty of the first-degree murder of former classmate Kristin Smart. Flores (who is now 45) will be sentenced on Dec. 9, 2022, and he will face anywhere from 25 years to life in prison. This trial concluded a 26-year-long investigation into what happened to Smart on Memorial Day weekend in 1996, yet the location of her body remains unknown.


In 1996, 19-year-old Smart was a freshman at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. After attending an off-campus party on May 25, 1996 (Memorial Day weekend) with her friend Margarita Campo, Smart was walked home by Flores at around 2 am. Flores told investigators that he walked Smart home because she had been drinking and needed support walking; additionally, she had been alone at the party as Campo had decided to head home early. 


Campo later told investigators that Smart did not have a purse, money or even her keys. In order to get back into their dormitory later, Campo gave Smart her keys before leaving. After that night, Smart was never seen again. 


The next day, Campo was concerned when she saw that Smart’s belongings had not been moved and Smart had not returned home. The Smart family says they tried to file a missing person’s report but local police told them it was too soon to file a report. The FBI also told the Smarts that the university police had jurisdiction in the case. 


After over 48 hours, Cal Poly campus police were contacted, but they did not seem worried or concerned about Smart’s whereabouts. After more than four days missing, the Cal Poly police finally began investigating Smart’s location. 


Dan Dow, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney, said that on the night of her disappearance, “it is alleged that Mr. Flores caused the death of Kristin Smart while in the commission of, or attempted, rape.” Two women told jurors they had been raped by Flores on separate occasions, and a sexually explicit image of a woman in Flores’s home was brought in as evidence in the trial. 


In a separate case, a jury found Paul Flores’s father Ruben Flores not guilty of aiding and abetting in Smart’s murder. On suspicion that he helped his son hide Smart’s body, Ruben Flores was also charged with being an accessory after the fact. 


In 2021, authorities extensively searched both Paul and Ruben Flores’s homes using ground-penetrating radar and dogs trained to detect human remains. In his closing arguments, San Luis Obispo County prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle alleged Ruben Flores hid Smart’s body under his back deck. In his arguments, Peuvrelle presented alerts from cadaver dogs, soil samples, blood staining, a 6-foot-by-4-foot irregularity in the ground, and fibers matching Smart’s clothing found on Ruben Flores’s property. 

Six years after Smart’s disappearance, in 2002, her family declared her legally dead, even though the whereabouts of her body are still unknown. At a news conference on Oct. 18 after the verdicts were announced, Stan Smart, Kristin’s father, said “without Kristin, there is no joy or happiness in this verdict.” In the same news conference, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson declared that the case would not be over until Smart’s body is “returned home.”

Laurel is currently a junior at UC Berkeley studying Political Science with an emphasis on International Relations. She is from Los Angeles and outside of school, she enjoys cooking, snowboarding, painting, and going to concerts.

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