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Kristin Smart Murder Trial Set To Begin With Opening Statements Monday
Paul Flores is accused of killing 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart during an attempted rape in his dorm room in 1996, and then recruiting his father, Ruben Flores, to help him hide the body.
Opening statement are expected to begin today in the trial of Kristin Smart’s accused killer, more than 26 years after the California Polytechnic State University freshman vanished after leaving an off-campus party.
Paul Flores — who was a freshman at the time — stands accused of murdering the 19-year-old during an attempted rape in his dorm room on May 25, 1996 after walking Smart home from the party, The Associated Press reports.
His father, Ruben Flores — now 81 — is also on trial for allegedly helping his son bury Smart’s remains. Prosecutors believe Ruben helped his son bury Smart in the backyard of his Arroyo Grande home before later digging her remains up and moving them to an unknown location.
The trial, which is expected to last until October, was moved to Salinas after a judge ruled the pair might not receive a fair trial in San Luis Obispo County, according to The San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Under the guidance of Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe, two juries have been seated: one which will decide the fate of Ruben Flores; and another which will be tasked with determining the guilt or innocence of now 45-year-old Paul Flores.
Paul Flores was long considered a suspect in the disappearance, but for years no arrests were made until the podcast “Your Own Backyard” took a new look at the case and uncovered new information.
Both Flores men were arrested in April 2021.
Smart disappeared on May 25, 1996 after leaving an off-campus party around 2:00 a.m., The New York Times reports.
Flores later told investigators that he had walked Smart to his dorm building before they each went their separate ways.
For years, investigators searched for the missing teen, interviewing those at the party, sending cadaver dogs into Paul Flores’ dorm room, searching Smart’s own dorm room and scouring the remote areas surrounding the university, but her remains were never recovered.
Smart was declared legally dead in 2002.
In recent years, the search efforts have focused on the Arroyo Grande home of Ruben Flores.
In March 2021, archeologists discovered a soil disturbance under the deck of the home and detected the presence of what prosecutors contend is human blood, although the sample was too degraded to produce any DNA sample.
A blood expert concluded the blood was likely human, although it also could have been linked to a ferret or ape, according to authorities.
They also found “items of interest” during a February 2020 search of Paul Flores’ Los Angeles home and three other locations, according to a CNN report at the time.
After the arrests in April of 2021, San Luis Obispo County district attorney Dan Dow said authorities believe Paul killed Smart “while in the commission of, or attempted, rape” and then recruited his father to help hide the body.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.