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Attorney for Kristin Smart's family discusses upcoming trial

Yearbook Photo from the LA Times

Paul Flores, the person last seen with Kristin Smart before she vanished from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 25 years ago, will now stand trial on a murder charge in her suspected death — while his father, Ruben Flores, will stand trial as an accomplice.

After a 22-day preliminary hearing, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen said there is enough probable cause to make Paul and Ruben Flores stand trial in the disappearance of Kristin Smart. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

The Smart’s family lawyer, James Murphy, said it’ll be an agonizing trial for Kristin Smart's parents, Stan and Denise. 

“It’s going to be a tough case. They’ll have to testify, they’ll have to face the attacks of the defense lawyers," Murphy said. "But what did I tell Stan? ‘Hey Stan, you’re 72. You don’t have another 25 years where we can let this thing sit on the backburner. The time is now.'”

Murphy has been the Smart’s family lawyer ever since their daughter went missing in 1996. 

“Their goal is to find their daughter," Murphy said. " If they can’t get that, then putting the perpetrators behind bars would be an enormous satisfaction.”

Murphy said while it is difficult to convict someone for murder without a body, it’s not impossible. While Kristin’s body has never been found, Murphy said the family still hopes to one day give their daughter a proper burial.

“The meaning of burial, why is it so important?" Murphy asked. "Because it kind of sews up a bit, the hole in the heart that is left by these catastrophic losses.”

Judge Van Rooyen hasn’t yet decided whether the trial will take place in SLO County, or be transferred outside the area. But Murphy said he’s confident wherever the trial is held, that the evidence will speak for itself.

“This is a human story," Murphy said. "This is two parents that love their kid so much, and their child disappeared under suspicious circumstances. I think the evidence will translate over county lines.”

Murphy said if Paul and Ruben Flores are acquitted, he’ll try a civil suit against the pair. 

Paul Flores’ lawyer, Robert Sanger, said he doesn’t comment on active cases, and even if he did, the judge has ordered all parties in the case not to talk about it publicly. 
Flores' attorney requested that the gag order should also apply to the Smart family's attorney, but that motion was denied by Judge Van Rooyen since James Murphy only represents the Smarts in the civil suit.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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