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Closing Arguments Delivered In Kristin Smart Murder Trial
Paul Flores has been accused of murdering college classmate Kristin Smart during an attempted rape in his California Polytechnic State University dorm room in May 1996, though her body has never been found.
After months of witness testimony, closing arguments were delivered in the trial of Paul Flores for the murder of college classmate Kristin Smart, with prosecutors telling jurors the defendant was “guilty as sin,” while the defense countered there was no evidence a murder had even occurred.
“We know now the truth. The truth is out,” San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle told the jury, according to KRON. “The truth is Kristin was plucked off the face of the earth by Paul Flores.”
Peuvrelle delivered the closing arguments Monday in a case that has been decades in the making and served as the focus of the popular podcast “Your Own Backyard,” which has been credited with renewing investigators interest in solving the 1996 murder.
Smart, a 19-year-old college freshman at California Polytechnic State University, disappeared on May 25, 1996 after leaving an off-campus party highly intoxicated. Flores, also a student at the time, had offered to safely escort Smart to her dorm, but prosecutors contend that he killed her during an attempted rape in his own dorm room.
The prosecutor alleged that Flores had “hunted” Smart around the campus for months, but that the freshman was “too nice” to tell Flores she wasn’t interested.
According to Peuvrelle’s closing arguments on Monday, Flores finally saw his chance the night of the party.
Smart was never seen again.
Prosecutors believe Ruben Flores, Paul's 81-year-old father who's also on trial on charges of being an accessory after the fact, helped his son bury Smart’s body under the deck of his Arroyo Grande home before digging up the body and moving it to an unknown location years later as interest reignited in the case.
"It’s been 1,370 Sundays since Stan and Denise Smart waited for that phone call — the phone call that would never come," Peuvrelle said, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. "But now you know where she was all along."
He went on to say that Smart was “under their deck.”
“The community moved Heaven and Earth to try to find her. Paul and Ruben, they moved the dirt under their deck to hide her,” he said, per KRON. “Justice delayed does not have to be justice denied.”
Smart’s body has never been found, but prosecutors called witnesses to the stand who testified that authorities had discovered evidence of blood in the soil.
“For crimes that happen in a bedroom, there are no witnesses,” Peuvrelle said. “But ground-penetrating radar, a forensic archeologist, and a lab supervisor tell us what Kristin could not. We don’t have a full intact body in this case, but we have her blood.”
Throughout the closing arguments, Peuvrelle reminded the jury of key witness testimony, including accounts by two women, referred to in court as “Rhonda Doe” and “Sarah Doe” who alleged that Flores raped them in separate incidents years after Smart’s disappearance.
He argued the jury should let “Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe tell us what Kristin could not: that she was raped. Or that Paul Flores tried to rape her. And they speak for Kristin,” he said, according to the local paper.
He also pointed to the testimony of Jennifer Hudson, a woman who told jurors she had been hanging out with Flores at a backyard skateboard ramp in 1996 when she said Flores confessed to killing the missing teen, allegedly telling her at the time that he “took care of her” because Smart had been a “d--- tease.”
But during his own closing argument, Flores’ defense attorney Robert Sanger sought to discredit Hudson's story, alleging in court that Hudson had used drugs and was a former member of a motorcycle gang.
“Her story was preposterous,” he told the jury. “There are all sorts of problems with Jennifer Hudson.”
He called the prosecution’s case against his client nothing more than “conspiracy theories.”
“There is no evidence of a murder,” he said. “Conspiracy theories are fun. But you are here as jurors. A defendant is presumed to be innocent. The People have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
He went on to attack Smart’s behavior the night of the party.
“This is a sad case, there’s no question about it, Kristin Smart didn’t come home,” Sanger said. “All of these kids were college kids drinking at a party. She was kissing a number of different guys, and falling down, and getting drunk. It would be nice to say she was angelic, but the reality is she was engaged in risky behavior.”
The defense rested its case without Flores ever taking the stand, but his attorney has continued to insist to the jury that there is no evidence that Smart was killed.
Flores and his father are being tried at the same time, however, both men have separate juries who will be tasked with determining their fate.
Ruben’s jury is expected to hear closing arguments in connection to the charges against him on Tuesday, KSBY reports.