by Camille DeVaul and Christianna Marks
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — After 26 years of investigation, Paul Flores has been found guilty of the first-degree murder of Kristin Smart. The verdict came on Tuesday, Oct. 18, right before noon when Paul’s jury reached a decision after just over 20 hours of deliberation.
His father, Ruben Flores, 81, was found not guilty of accessory after the fact. Ruben was accused of helping his son hide Kristin’s remains.
Paul Flores had been charged with the 1996 murder and disappearance of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. The father and son were both arrested in April 2021.
Ruben Flores’ jury reached their verdict on Monday, Oct. 17, after just six hours of deliberation. While Paul and Ruben were being tried at the same time, they had different juries. A previous ruling by presiding Judge Jennifer O’Keefe said that both verdicts had to be read back-to-back.
Several of Kristin’s family members were present in court throughout the deliberations — Paul’s mother, Susan Flores, was not present.
While the verdicts were read, neither Paul nor his father showed emotion in the court.
But for the Smart family there was a clear sign of relief and tears from Kristin’s mother and sister.
Present at the courthouse, Christianna Marks of the Atascadero News/Paso Robles Press spoke to several members of the public who came to Salinas from San Luis Obispo County for the verdict readings.
There was a sense of joy throughout the courtroom as Paul’s guilty verdict was read. The same could not be said following Ruben’s not-guilty reading from his jury.
Outside of the courthouse, Ruben and his defense lawyer Harold Mesick spoke with the press.
Ruben, who was on his way to have his electronic monitoring removed, told the press, “I am relieved and I’m worried about my son, of course.”
When asked why Susan was not present at the verdict reading, Ruben stated that she could not be there due to medical issues.
Mesick reiterated several times that his client is a good man and is innocent, but that he wishes the public would uphold the court’s ruling and treat Ruben with more kindness.
“He is free to go,” said Mesick.
When asked if he had any comments for the victim’s family, Ruben said, “I feel bad for them because they didn’t get no answers about what happened to their daughter, and we don’t know what happened to their daughter.”
Following his arrest, Ruben was released on a $50,000 bail with electronic monitoring. Paul was denied bail and remained in county jail.
The trial began on July 18, just over a year after the father and son’s arrest. Throughout the trial, jurors heard from witnesses, including former Cal Poly students who were with Kristin and Paul at the party on Crandall Way the night she went missing.
Two Jane Does from Los Angeles County testified in the trial, accusing Paul of raping them. Their testimonies have been deemed an integral part in the prosecution’s case against Paul.
Later that day, at the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, SLO District Attorney Dan Dow held a press conference to review the verdicts and give thanks to all involved in the case. He was joined by the Deputy District Attorney leading the case, Chris Peuvrelle, and SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson.
Parkinson released a statement echoing his comments at the conference, “I am extremely pleased with the jury’s decision today to convict Paul Flores for the murder of Kristin Smart. I am disappointed, however, for the acquittal of Ruben Flores as an accessory for helping conceal the crime.”
He thanked the district attorneys for their work in the prosecution and all members of the Sheriff’s Office who worked on the case over the years.
The sheriff added, “But there is no true justice until Kristin is reunited with her family. This investigation will not be closed until we find Kristin. As I mentioned when I announced the arrests in this case, it is my hope that we are able to bring some closure to the Smart family. Peace to our community. And justice, once and for all, for Kristin.”
The Smart family gave its own statement at the press conference. Stan Smart, Kristin’s father, read the following statement:
“Without Kristin, there is no joy or victory with this verdict, we all know it did not have to be this way. We will never be able to hear Kristin’s engaging laughter or revel in her embrace. Her hopes and dreams will never be realized; no form of justice can bring these back. After 26 years, with today’s split verdicts, we learned that our quest for justice for Kristin will continue. We appreciate and we are beyond grateful for the diligence of both juries and our faith in the justice system has been renewed by knowing the man who took Kristin’s life will no longer be free to abuse another family or victim.
“This has been an agonizingly long journey with more downs than ups, but we feel fortunate to have relied on the professional talents and commitment of Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, District Attorney Dan Dow, Beth Raub, our victim witness advocate, and paralegal Becky Cripe, and the stellar team at the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. We would also like to acknowledge Sheriff Ian Parkinson, Detective Clint Cole, District Attorney Investigator JT Camp, and the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office for their tireless commitment to making Kristin a priority. The steadfast efforts of this team and so many others ultimately made this day possible.
Finally, we are also thankful for the selfless contributions of Chris Lambert. His ‘Your Own Backyard’ podcast brought not only new information but much needed light and attention in our darkest hours by sharing Kristin’s voice and story.
“Our family is comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that Kristin continues to be held in the hearts and memories of many. We will never be able to personally thank everyone, but please know our gratitude and love goes out to each of you who have been with us on this long, overwhelming, and emotional journey. We are forever stronger together.
“Most importantly, to our Kristin: Almost three decades ago, our lives were irreparably changed on the night you disappeared. We hope this verdict helps deliver not just answers, but also a peace and sense of closure that have eluded us for 26 years. Know that your spirit lives on in each and every one of us, every day. Not a single day goes by where you aren’t missed, remembered, loved, and celebrated.”
Following Stan, Kristin’s mother, Denise took the podium to say, “I would like to briefly add my appreciation to everyone that my husband spoke about and to each person who has been the wind beneath our wings to get us through to this day.”
Paul Flores is scheduled to receive his sentencing on Dec. 9 in Salinas. He could face a sentence of 25 years to life behind bars. Atascadero News/Paso Robles Press will be following this story and will update when new information is available.