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Two juries, two verdicts in Kristin Smart murder trial: Paul Flores guilty, Ruben Flores not guilty

Courtesy of Denise Smart

Both juries in the Kristin Smart murder trial have reached their respective verdicts, which were read Tuesday afternoon at Monterey County Superior Court.

Paul Flores has been found guilty of the willful, deliberate and premeditated murder in the first degree of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, who went missing in 1996.

(L to R) Paul and Ruben Flores, Paul Flores has been found guilty of first degree murder and Ruben Flores has been found not guilty of accessory to murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart who went missing in 1996.
SLO County Sheriff's Office
Paul and Ruben Flores (L to R), Paul Flores has been found guilty of first degree murder and Ruben Flores has been found not guilty of accessory to murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart who went missing in 1996.

His father, Ruben Flores — arrested for being an accessory to the murder — has been found not guilty.

The decision comes exactly three months after the start of the trial on July 18th, and 26 years after Smart was first reported missing.

Paul Flores is facing a prison sentence of 25 years to life, which will be decided during his sentencing date on December 9th.

After Ruben Flores’ verdict was announced, Judge Jennifer O’Keefe discharged him from electronic monitoring. Ruben Flores had been wearing an ankle monitor since his arrest in April of 2021.

Since the start of closing statements, the juries in the Paul and Ruben Flores cases were kept entirely separate, meaning they came to their respective verdicts independently of one another.

While speaking to reporters outside of the courtroom on Tuesday, Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Mesick, told the press that, quote, “it is very likely that Paul’s attorney will file a motion for a new trial,” end quote.

Throughout the trial, Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, made nine motions for a mistrial. Judge O’Keefe has denied all of them.

Ruben Flores also spoke outside the courtroom on Tuesday.

“You look through it and there is no evidence against anybody, me or Paul, there wasn’t any time. Just too much made up stuff. It’s too bad that sometimes the system works that way – on feelings instead of facts,” Flores said.

The juries began deliberating on October 4th and October 5th for Paul and Ruben Flores, respectively.

On October 13th, the jury for Ruben Flores re-started their deliberations after a member of the jury was replaced with an alternate.

That jury deliberated for less than two full days with the alternate juror before reaching their verdict, and the jury for Paul Flores reached their verdict after four and a half days of deliberations.

The jury for Ruben Flores turned in their verdict on Monday morning, which was kept sealed until the jury for Paul Flores turned in their verdict on Tuesday morning.

Kristin Smart went missing as a Cal Poly freshman in 1996 after walking home with Paul Flores from an off-campus party. Her body has never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution called more than 50 witnesses to the stand and the defense called four.

Before excusing both juries from the courthouse after the reading of the verdicts, Judge O’Keefe separately thanked them for their service in this case, saying quote.. “I understand what a great sacrifice this was..” end quote.

Nico Viñuela began as a news intern at KCBX, and then regularly hosted our weekend programs. He also substituted hosting Morning Edition, middays and All Things Considered. Nico graduated from Cal Poly with a BS in Journalism in December 2022. During his time at Cal Poly, he worked as a news anchor and Assistant News Director for the campus radio station, KCPR. He was embedded in Salinas, California covering the Kristin Smart murder trial for Mustang News and KCBX. Nico also did other occasional reporting for KCBX News. In 2023 he moved on to New York to work for Dateline at NBC Universal.
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