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Guilty! Paul Flores found guilty of killing Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart in 1996

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office is reporting major developments in the investigation into the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristen Smart.
Smart Family
Paul Flores was found guilty Tuesday of the 1996 murder of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart.

His father, Ruben Flores, was found not guilty of a charge he was an accessory to the murder.

A man has been convicted of first-degree murder for killing a Central Coast college student more than a quarter of a century ago.

Paul Flores was accused of murdering Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart. She disappeared in May of 1996, after Flores was seen walking her back to school from an off-campus party. Prosecutors say he killed her during a sexual assault. Her body was never recovered.

Flores was long considered to be a person of interest in the disappearance. But, it wasn’t until April of 2021 that San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s detectives and prosecutors thought they had enough evidence to arrest, and prosecute him.

He pled not guilty, with his lawyer contending what without a body, much of the evidence introduced in the case was circumstantial.

His father, Ruben Flores, was arrested on a charge of being an accessory to the killing. Prosecutors contended he helped deal with Smart's body. Investigators believe that for years, the student’s remains were buried beneath a deck of the family’s home in Arroyo Grande. But, a jury found him not guilty of the charge.

The two men were tried together, but had separate juries.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.