Guilty verdict in 26-year-old California murder case

A quarter century-old murder case was closed this week when Paul Flores was convicted of killing then 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart in 1996. 

Prosecutors say defendant is a serial rapist

According to the Washington Examiner, a jury in San Luis Obispo County, California found Flores guilty of first degree murder on Tuesday. He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 9 and faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

However, the defendant’s father, Ruben Flores, was acquitted the day before on charges of being an accessory to Smart’s murder by helping to dispose of her body.

The Examiner noted that Smart disappeared in 1996 while she was a student at California Polytechnic State University, which is located in San Luis Obispo.

Smart was last seen one evening making her way home from a fraternity party but would not be declared legally dead until 2002.

The Los Angeles Times reported that San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrell argued in court that Flores is a sexual predator with a history of targeting young women.

He called two women to testify, both of whom claimed that Flores had drugged and raped them years prior to Smart’s disappearance.

Both women claimed they were gagged during their assaults, and Peuvrell showed the jury a picture of a gagged woman found on Flores’ computer.

Father of defendant insists his son is innocent

Meanwhile, Ruben Flores spoke with the Times following his acquittal and maintained his son’s innocence, arguing that his prosecution was rooted in emotion rather than evidence.

It wasn’t about facts,” the elder Flores was quoted as saying. “It was mostly about feelings, and I think that’s what happened with my son. They were carried away with feelings about their family and the girl missing.”

Harold Mesick serves as Ruben Flores’ attorney, and the Times noted that during his closing arguments, Mesick argued that his client had been the subject of “demonization.”

“He should have never been charged,” Mesick told the Times following Flores’ acquittal. “It would be nice if the community would actually honor the presumption of innocence. There is so much animosity toward this man and his family.”