Man convicted of killing missing California college student

Oct 18, 2022, 1:58 PM | Updated: 6:32 pm
Ruben Flores speaks to the media outside a Salinas Court Tuesday Oct. 18, 2022, in Salinas, Calif. ...

Ruben Flores speaks to the media outside a Salinas Court Tuesday Oct. 18, 2022, in Salinas, Calif. Flores, was found not guilty of charges of being an accessory to murder after the fact for allegedly helping his son, Paul Flores, bury the body of missing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Jurors unanimously found Paul Flores guilty of first-degree murder. (Daniel Dreifuss/Monterey Weekly via AP)

(Daniel Dreifuss/Monterey Weekly via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The last man seen with Kristin Smart was convicted Tuesday of killing the college freshman, who vanished from a California campus more than 25 years ago, but his father was acquitted of helping him conceal the crime.

Jurors unanimously found Paul Flores guilty of first-degree murder. He could face 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.

In an email, his attorney, Robert Sanger, declined to comment on the verdict because “the matter is still pending.”

A jury in a separate trial found his father, Ruben Flores, not guilty of charges of being an accessory to murder after the fact. The conflicting verdicts were read moments apart in the same courtroom.

“Without Kristin, there’s no joy or happiness in this verdict,” Smart’s father, Stan Smart, said at a news conference after the hearing. “After 26 years, with today’s split verdict, we learned that our quest for justice for Kristin will continue.”

He described the case as a long, agonizing journey and said he was grateful to the two juries for their diligence.

Smart disappeared from California Polytechnic State University on the state’s scenic central coast over Memorial Day weekend in 1996. Her remains have never been found. The father and son weren’t arrested until 2021.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson told reporters at a news conference that the investigation won’t end until Smart’s remains are found.

“This case will not be over until Kristin is returned home, and we have committed to that from the beginning,” he said. “We don’t take a breath. We do not put this aside.”

Prosecutors maintained the younger Flores, now 45, killed the 19-year-old during an attempted rape on May 25, 1996, in his dorm room at Cal Poly, where both were first-year students. He was the last person seen with Smart as he walked her home from an off-campus party where she became intoxicated.

His father, now 81, was accused of helping bury the slain student behind his home in the nearby community of Arroyo Grande and later digging up the remains and moving them.

Outside the courthouse, Ruben Flores maintained that his son is innocent and said he feels badly that Smart’s family will never have a resolution. He said the case was about feelings, not facts.

“We don’t know what happened to their daughter,” he told reporters.

Sanger had tried to pin the killing on someone else — noting that Scott Peterson, who was later convicted at a sensational trial of killing his pregnant wife and the fetus she was carrying — was also a student at the campus about 200 miles (320 kilometers) up the coast from Los Angeles.

During his closing arguments, Sanger said no attempted rape occurred and he cast doubt on testimony from witnesses, including a student who was in Smart’s dorm who testified to seeing Paul Flores in Smart’s room.

He also referred to forensic evidence offered by the prosecution as “junk science.”

“This case was not prosecuted for all these years because there’s no evidence,” Sanger said. “It’s sad Kristin Smart disappeared, and she may have gone out on her own, but who knows?”

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, according to court records. He later changed his story to say he bumped his head while working on his car.

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 about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Cal Poly in the community of Arroyo Grande.

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.

The trial was held in Salinas, 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of San Luis Obispo. A judge agreed to move it after the defense argued that it was unlikely the Floreses could receive a fair trial with so much much notoriety in the city of about 47,000 people.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Spain hosts EU-Med summit to discuss energy crisis

MADRID (AP) — The leaders of nine Mediterranean and Southern European countries planned to meet Friday in Spain, with the energy crisis triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine likely to top the agenda. The EU-Med9 meeting in the eastern port city of Alicante brings together the leaders of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Malta, […]
3 hours ago
Medical workers in protective overalls walk past a line outside the fever clinic of a hospital in B...
Associated Press

China struggles with COVID infections after controls ease

BEIJING (AP) — A rash of COVID-19 cases in schools and businesses were reported by social media users Friday in areas across China after the ruling Communist Party loosened anti-virus rules as it tries to reverse a deepening economic slump. Official data showed a fall in new cases, but those no longer cover big parts […]
3 hours ago
FILE - Ukraine Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko walks outside of the International Monetary Fund (...
Associated Press

Helping Ukraine is ‘self-preservation,’ finance chief says

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Ukraine’s finance minister says crucial Western financial support is “not charity” but “self-preservation” in the fight to defend democracy as his country deals with growing costs to repair electrical and heating infrastructure wrecked by Russian attacks. Serhiy Marchenko also told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday from Kyiv that he […]
3 hours ago
People walk by monitors showing an exchange rate of the Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar at a s...
Associated Press

Asian shares advance on back of Wall Street gains

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares rose in Asia on Friday after an advance on Wall Street led by the latest rally in technology companies. Chinese benchmarks rose on reports the government is planning new measures to support the ailing property sector, which has dragged on growth over the past several years. The relaxation of some of […]
3 hours ago
A general view of pupils during lunch hour at Hillstone Primary School, in Birmingham, England, Wed...
Associated Press

UK cost-of-living woes stir push for more free school meals

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — As the school bell rings, dozens of children begin filing into the canteen at Hillstone Primary School. The day’s offering, a roast dinner, is a popular one, and many are eager to tuck into their plates of turkey slices, roasted potatoes, broccoli and gravy. For some children in this area of […]
3 hours ago
Cargo trucks move into a port in Busan, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Thousands of South Korea...
Associated Press

South Korean truckers end 16-day strike over freight rates

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Thousands of South Korean truckers are returning to work after voting Friday to end their 16-day walkout that disrupted construction and other domestic industries. Thousands of truckers seeking financial protections as fuel prices rise went on strike Nov. 24. The government took aggressive steps to minimize interruptions such as by […]
3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Man convicted of killing missing California college student