Los Angeles, (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – October 19, 2022): More than 26 years after a California student disappeared while returning to her dorm after a college party, a man was convicted of her murder on Tuesday .
The body of 19-year-old Kristin Smart was never found, and for decades billboards and even a true-crime podcast called for evidence in a case that haunted the community, before the suspect longtime Paul Flores was arrested last year.
Flores, now 45, was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Monterey County Superior Court jury on Tuesday following a three-month trial.
“Our criminal and victim justice system has finally brought justice to Kristin,” San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow said after the verdicts were read.
“The impact that Kristin Smart’s disappearance and investigation has had on the Smart family, on our community, for a quarter of a century, has been profound.” “Today, justice delayed is not justice denied,” he told a press conference.
But Smart’s remains have still not been found and Paul’s father, Ruben, was found not guilty on Tuesday of helping to hide his body.
Smart’s father, Stan, said, “Without Kristin, there is no joy or happiness in this verdict.” “After 26 years, with today’s split verdicts, we learned that our pursuit of justice for Kristin will continue.” Smart and Flores were both students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on California’s central coast, when she disappeared in May 1996.
Flores was the last person seen with Smart, accompanying him on the 10-minute walk back to his dorm after a party that night.
Prosecutors said Flores raped or attempted to rape and killed Smart before burying his remains under the deck of his father’s house.
During the trial, prosecutors said Paul Flores stalked Smart for months and suggested he may have drugged his drink at the party on the night of his murder.
Smart was declared legally dead in 2002, but the mysterious case has remained prominent in the San Luis Obispo community, attracting amateur sleuths including the “Your Own Backyard” podcast.
The case had to be moved from San Luis Obispo to neighboring Monterey County to ensure a fair trial.
In 2019, a witness told detectives that Flores confessed to the crime to him.
As investigations intensified once again, prosecutors alleged that activity spotted at her father’s house the following year indicated attempts to move Smart’s remains.
Ian Parkinson, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff, has vowed to continue searching for her body after the verdict.
“The reality is that there is a form of justice today that holds the person accountable,” he said.
“However, that doesn’t change the fact that their daughter, at 19, disappeared and was murdered. And they don’t have the opportunity to see her graduate from Cal Poly, get married, have grandchildren. children for them.” Parkinson added: “Even though Paul was sentenced today, this case is not over. This case will not be over until Kristin returns home.” Paul and Ruben Flores have always denied any involvement in Smart’s disappearance, and Ruben’s attorney, Harold Mesick, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that there is a “reasonable inference” that she is still alive and that expects his son to appeal.
Flores is due to be sentenced on December 9 and faces life in prison.
Paul Flores’ lawyer, Robert Sanger, told AFP by email that “the case is still pending” and declined to comment further.