Jury finds Paul Flores guilty of murdering California student Kristen Smart in 1996


    The trial of Paul Flores has been ongoing at Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas, California and the verdict was announced at 13:30 pm (21:30 BST). Mr Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, now 81 was also on trial under suspicion of being an accessory to murder by helping to move Ms Smart’s body.

    At 13:30 pm on Tuesday the jury for Paul Flores found him guilty of first-degree murder.

    Members of Kristen’s family were present in the courtroom and her mother and sister shed tears as the verdict was read out while Kristen’s father and brother appeared to be relieved.

    A separate jury concluded that Ruben Flores was not guilty of being an accessory to murder.

    Three days after Mr Flores left Ms Smart at the dorms, a missing person’s report was filed, and a search began of the campus and her dorm room in Muir Hall.

    Mr Flores’s room at the campus was also searched and he was interviewed by investigators.

    The family of Ms Smart had their daughter declared legally dead in 2002 and almost two decades later in 2021, the authorities said that Mr Flores was their “prime suspect” as they ordered search warrants.

    Investigators explored his home in Los Angeles and his property in Arroyo Grande and used trained dogs and radar which can penetrate the ground in an attempt to find human remains.

    The prosecution accused Flores, now 45, of raping or attempting to rape Ms Smart and murdering her in his room on campus and that his father Ruben helped to move the body by hiding it under the deck at his house.

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    Though Ms Smart’s body has never been located, the Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle told jurors in July that the search of Ruben Flores’ house found soil samples which tested positive for human blood.

    Mr Peuvrelle noted that soil samples showed a 6-foot-by-4 foot irregularity in the ground along with blood staining, alerts from the trained dogs and fibres which matched Ms Smart’s clothing.

    A document which was filed as part of the case noted that a detective from the sheriff’s office said that investigators are “in possession of biological evidence that makes them believe the victim was buried underneath the defendant’s (Ruben Flores) deck at one time.”

    The Prosecution alleged that the father and son moved the body before the authorities exercised their search warrant at the property, according to reports KRON.

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    San Luis Obispo County district attorney, Dan Dow said that Paul Flores had “caused the death” of Ms Smart “while in the commission of, or attempted, rape”.

    Prosecutors said that Mr Flores faces 25 years to life in prison and will be sentenced on December 9.

    According to live tweets from Karen Cruz-Orduna in the courtroom: “Court officials escorted the Smart family.

    “There will be a press conference at 4 pm outside the Monterey County DA’s Office.”

    After the arrest of Paul Flores and his father in 2021, the family of Kristen described the day as bittersweet.

    They said in a statement: “While Kristen’s loving spirit will always lie in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates.”


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