The man convicted of killing Kristin Smart, who vanished from the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo more than 25 years ago, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for her murder.
Paul Flores could face 25 years to life in state prison. However, the judge was first expected to consider defense motions to toss out Flores’ conviction, acquit him and order a new trial.
Smart, 19, disappeared over Memorial Day weekend in 1996.
Her remains have never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Prosecutors maintained that Flores, now 46, killed Smart during an attempted rape on May 25, 1996, in his dorm room at the university, where both were first-year students. He was the last person seen with Smart as he walked her home from an off-campus party.
Flores was arrested in 2021 along with his father, who was accused of helping to hide Smart’s body.
The trial was held in Salinas after the defense argued that the case’s notoriety prevented Flores and his father from receiving a fair trial in their own county.
Found Guilty of Murder
A jury found Flores guilty of first-degree murder in October. A separate jury acquitted Ruben Flores, 81, of being an accessory.
At Paul Flores’ trial, defense attorney Robert Sanger tried to pin the killing on someone else. Sanger noted that Scott Peterson, who was later convicted at a sensational trial of murdering his pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying, was also a student at the campus.
Sanger filed motions on Feb. 24 in Monterey County Superior Court requesting that charges be dismissed and his client acquitted. One motion also seeks a new trial.
Sanger disputed forensic evidence offered by the prosecution. He contended that Flores’ right to a fair trial was violated because of prosecution errors and “the admission of junk science as evidence.”
“There is a reason that a case against Paul Flores was not brought for 25 years,” the motion said. “There was no evidence of a murder or that Paul Flores committed it.”
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office asked the court to deny those requests, arguing “claims of misconduct are baseless and the claims of judicial error are incorrect.”
Paul Flores had long been considered a suspect in the killing. He had a black eye when investigators interviewed him. He told them he got it playing basketball with friends, who denied his account. He later changed his story to say he bumped his head while working on his car, according to court records.
Investigators conducted dozens of fruitless searches for Smart’s body over two decades. In the past two years they turned their attention to Ruben Flores’ home in the community of Arroyo Grande, about 12 miles south of the college.
Behind latticework beneath the deck of his large house on a dead end street, archaeologists working for police in March 2021 found a soil disturbance about the size of a casket and the presence of human blood, prosecutors said. The blood was too degraded to extract a DNA sample.