UPDATE: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20 — Just days after a jury reached a unanimous agreement to find Flores guilty in the 1996 murder of Kristin Smart, SLO Mayor Erica A. Stewart has issued a statement regarding the decision.
“My heart goes out to Kristin Smart’s family. I hope they have some peace in hearing the guilty verdict for Paul Flores. Kristin Smart’s disappearance has always struck a deep chord with myself and my Cal Poly alumni circle,” Mayor Stewart wrote to LAMag. “I’m thankful for the work that’s been done for Flores to face a 25-year sentence and to bring closure to this case. For all who are affected by this case, I wish them healing thoughts as they process in the coming weeks. I encourage everyone in need of healing to reach out to 211 and connect with local resources.”
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18 — Paul Flores, the man suspected for decades to be responsible for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, has been found guilty of first-degree murder at his California trial.
Jurors gathered to deliberate at a Salinas courtroom on Tuesday and eventually reached a unanimous agreement that Flores is guilty of first-degree murder. The trial brought an end to the San Luis Obispo cold case that has been left unsolved but generated enduring interest for over 26 years.
The jury found 45-year-old Flores guilty of willful, premeditated murder after deliberating for four days.
“I wish to express to you appreciation and that of the parties for your service in this case,” Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe said to the jury after the verdict was read. “It is a great personal sacrifice to serve as a juror. … You have been very attentive and conscientious throughout this case.”
A separate jury acquitted Flores’ father, 81-year-old Arroyo Grande resident Ruben, of being an accessory to the murder. He stands accused of helping his son dispose of Smart’s body and, overall, conceal the crime.
“You are fulfilling an extremely important role in our judicial system,” O’Keefe told Ruben Flores’ jurors. “Please accept our thanks for your time and our effort.”
When the verdict was read, Smart’s father smiled and put his arm around her mother, who broke into tears.
Smart initially went missing in May 1996, after she left an off-campus party around 2 a.m. accompanied by Flores. He later insisted that he had only walked Smart as far as her dorm and then they parted ways.
Friends told investigators that she was intoxicated, and Flores repeatedly told them that he could walk her to her dorm alone as she needed help walking, court documents say.
Smart was never seen again, nor had her body been found. The family had Smart declared legally dead in 2002.
In October 2019, it was revealed that San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow emailed San Luis Obispo County Sherriff Ian Parkinson a series of electronic notes kept by former District Attorney Gerald Shea, KSBY reported.
One of the notes, titled “Smart 5-7-10,” quoted Flores’s former attorney, Mel De la Motte, as stating: “I just want to say one thing and I shouldn’t even be saying this. But if you’ll come to me with an offer of an involuntary with only one condition and that is that he’ll take law enforcement to the body, then I can make that deal happen.”
Paul Flores will now faces 25 years to life in prison when a judge announces his sentence on Dec. 9.