Closing arguments heard for man suspected of hiding Kristin Smart’s body under deck

Closing arguments heard for man suspected of hiding Kristin Smart's body under deck 2
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The closing arguments have wrapped up in the trial of Ruben Flores – who is accused of helping his alleged murderer son bury missing teen Kristin Smart’s body underneath his deck for nearly two decades.

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Flores, 81, was arrested in April 2021 and charged with accessory to the crime. Jurors will soon come to a conclusion at Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas, California. 

The 81-year-old allegedly helped bury the slain student, 19, behind his home in the nearby community of Arroyo Grande and later dug up the remains and moved them.

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Both him and his son Paul Flores, who is accused of murdering Smart, have pleaded not guilty.

Deputy DA Christopher Peuvrelle told the court on Wednesday: ‘Justice delayed does not have to be justice denied. Yes, 26 years have passed. 

‘In the years since, Ruben Flores continued to hide Kristin’s body under his deck, and Paul Flores continued to rape women.

‘We don’t have an intact body — but we do have human blood.’ 

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Ruben Flores, now 81, is charged with accessory after the fact

Ruben Flores, now 81, is charged with accessory after the fact. His son is on trial for murder

The freshman was last seen after a party in May 1996. Investigators have been searching for her killer ever since. Paul Flores, who was also a 19-year-old freshman at the time of her death, was charged with her murder in 2021

The freshman was last seen after a party in May 1996. Investigators have been searching for her killer ever since. Paul Flores, who was also a 19-year-old freshman at the time of her death, was charged with her murder in 2021 

Behind lattice work beneath the deck of his large house on a dead end street off Tally Ho Road, 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

Behind lattice work beneath the deck of his large house on a dead end street off Tally Ho Road, 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

Neither verdict will be read until both juries have finished deliberating.

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Their verdicts are independent of one another – meaning that one can be found guilty even if the other is not.

Once both decisions are in, they will be read separately back-to-back. 

In March 2021, detectives served a search warrant for the father’s home. 

Behind lattice work beneath the deck of his large house on a dead end street off Tally Ho Road, archaeologists working for police in March found a soil disturbance about the size of a casket and the presence of human blood, prosecutors said.

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The blood was too degraded to extract a DNA sample. While a blood expert said it was human blood, the test used did not rule out the possibility it was from a ferret or primate, though court records said no remains of either such animal were found there.

A lawsuit filed against Ruben Flores alleged that ‘under cover of darkness,’ the father and unnamed accomplices moved the body four days after investigators searched his house.

Closing arguments for Rubens’ son Paul, 45, concluded on Tuesday after the court heard that Smart was ‘discarded worse than a pet.’

Prosecutor Peuvrelle asked the jury to find Paul Flores guilty of first-degree murder and summarized the evidence that had been presented during the trial that started on July 18.

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‘Sometimes we tell our kids monsters do not exist, but they do. We’ve seen one in this trial. I ask you to render a truthful verdict that Paul Flores is guilty of first-degree murder,’ he told the jury. 

Paul Flores, now 45, is charged with murder in the commission of a rape or attempted rape

Paul Flores, now 45, is charged with the murder of Smart in 1996

Search warrants for issued for the Arroyo Grande home of Paul Flores' father, Ruben Flores, 81

Search warrants for issued for the Arroyo Grande home of Paul Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, 81

The prosecution told jurors the ‘truth is, Kristin Smart is dead and the evidence is clear that she was killed by Paul Flores.’ 

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Robert Sanger, the attorney defending Paul Flores, argued that the case is straightforward: ‘There is no evidence of a murder, so that is really the end of it.’ 

Paul Flores, now 45, is accused of killing 19-year-old student Kristin Smart during an attempted rape and hiding her body with the help of his father – and prosecutors on Monday said he was ‘guilty as sin.’ 

Smart and Paul Flores were both students at California Polytechnic when she disappeared in May 1996 after an off-campus party.

On Monday, the long-awaited trial that began in July was inching closer to a verdict – after countless delays and two months of testimony.

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Both juries are currently out for deliberation. A verdict is expected in the coming days.   

Kristin Smart timeline: From California college student’s 1996 disappearance to 2022 murder trial 

May 1996

  • Kristin Smart, 19, of Stockton, California vanished. 
  • The California Polytechnic State University freshman was last seen around 2 a.m. on May 25 when she walked back to her to her dorm room after an off-campus party in San Luis Obispo. 
  • Paul Flores, her classmate who walked her home from the party, was the last person she was seen with. 
  • Smart never returned to her dorm and was reported missing to the Cal Poly Police Department on May 28.
  • Prosecutors would later say that Flores killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room.

August 2006 

  • Three cadaver dogs lead investigators to the dorm of 19-year-old Paul Flores during a search. 
  • The dogs, which are trained to pick up the smell of human remains, alerted to the corner of a mattress on Flores side of the room. 

May 2002 

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  • Smart was declared legally dead. But her family vowed to get justice.

2011 

  • Ian Parkinson became the San Luis Obispo County sheriff. 
  • He requested a complete review of all the evidence in relation to Kristin Smart’s missing person case.

2016 

  • There are new leads in the investigation and official excavate a hillside on the Cal Poly campus and cadaver dogs are used to search for Smart’s remains.
  • A San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s spokesman says investigators uncovered some ‘items of interest’ 

2019

  • New witnesses were interviewed which led detectives to securing a court order to monitor Paul Flores’ cellphone activity.

September 2019

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  • A podcast launched by Chris Lambert, ‘Your Own Backyard,’ brought renewed attention to case.
  • He was later praised by San Luis Obispo Sheriff Ian Parkinson for his help bringing attention to the case. 

February 2020 

  • Officials obtain four search warrants for Paul Flores.
  • Two of the warrants were served in San Luis Obispo, another in Los Angeles County and the fourth one in the state of Washington. 
  • Investigators said the warrants were for very specific items.

 April 2020

  • Evidence from previous search warrants led detectives to serve an additional warrant at Paul’s home. 
  • During the search, officials said they found evidence related to the murder of Smart.

March 2021 

  • Search warrants for issued for the Arroyo Grande home of Paul Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, 80.
  • Investigators used cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar to search the home.

April 2021

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  • Both Paul Flores and his father Ruben Flores were arrested in connection to Smart’s murder.
  • Paul Flores, who had been longtime person of interest in Smart’s disappearance case, was named the prime suspect in the case. 

 April 14, 2021

  • San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said that Smart was killed during an attempted rape by Paul Flores in his dorm room and his father helped hide her body.  

April 19, 2021

  • Paul Flores and Ruben Flores plead not guilty in connection with Smart’s disappearance. 

July 18, 2022 

  • Opening statements begin. 
  • Paul and Ruben Flores are being tried separately, but at the same time, with two different juries. 

October 3, 2022

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  • After nearly three months of testimony, delays, closing statements begin in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas, California.
  • Jurors heard closing statements in the case against Paul Flores.
  • Prosecutor Chris Peuvrelle told jurors the ‘truth is, Kristin Smart is dead and the evidence is clear that she was killed by Paul Flores.’ 
  • Defense attorney Robert Sanger argued that the case is straightforward: ‘There is no evidence of a murder, so that is really the end of it.’

October 4, 2022

  • Closing statements conclude and jurors are dismissed for deliberations. They will decide whether or not Paul Flores is guilty of killing Kristin Smart

October 5, 2022

  • Closing statements in the case against Ruben Flores begin.

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