Parents of Kristin Smart testify in trial against father and son Ruben and Paul Flores

SAN LUIS OBISPO — After a delay in court proceedings due to a health concern, testimonies began, and opening statements were concluded in the Kristin Smart murder trial on Thursday, July 21.

Paul Flores, 45, is charged in connection to the 1996 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Paul was arrested in April 2021 — on the same day, his father, Ruben Flores, was arrested as an accessory after the fact — accused of helping his son hide Kristin’s remains.  

Kristin was declared dead in 2002, but her remains have yet to be recovered. 


The trial has been moved from San Luis Obispo County to the Monterey County Superior Court after San Luis Obispo County Judge Craig van Rooyen ruled the defendants would not receive a fair trial in the county.

Judge Jennifer O’Keefe will now be presiding over the trial in Salinas.

Opening Statements for Ruben Flores

On Thursday, opening statements from Ruben (81) were wrapped up by his defense attorney Harold Mesick.

Mesick opened his statements by telling the jury the last 26 years have been tormenting for Ruben as he has been harassed and insulted for the last two decades, but added it was a tragic case for both the Smart family and Ruben.

In disputing the prosecution’s evidence, Mesick says the spot under his deck is the most inaccessible spot, and the decomposition evidence could be from the avocado trees that used to be there.

He goes on to add that it would have been impossible for the Floreses to move the body after the podcast (Chris Lambert’s “Your Own Backyard,” which has covered the Smart case) came out because they were being surveilled constantly. His reason for Mike McConville’s (Susan Flores’s boyfriend) trailer spotted at Ruben’s home was because it was being vandalized where it was previously parked.

Mesick asked the jury to be skeptical of the prosecution’s evidence and brought up confrontations between Kristin’s father, Stan, and Ruben following her disappearance — adding that Kristin chose to go to his client’s home.

Mesick mentioned a letter Denise Smart sent to her daughter on May 5, 1996 — a letter that will be brought up multiple times during Denise’s testimony.

Then Mesick offered a timeline of Ruben’s whereabouts on Memorial Day weekend in 1996 — addressing accusations that Ruben was unaccounted for the weekend Kristin went missing.

Reports say Mesick wrapped up his closing argument for Ruben by saying, “Kristin Smart will still be missing and we won’t know what happened.”

First Witness: Denise Smart

While Paul and Ruben are being tried at the same time, they have different juries — both were seated in the courtroom to hear the cross-examination of Denise Smart.

San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peurvelle began the questioning by establishing with Denise that she and her husband Stan have been married for 50 years and have three children together: Kristin (would have been 45), Matt (42), and Lindsey (40). 

Denise told the jury that while Kristin was at Cal Poly, they decided to call each other every Sunday. The last time Denise saw Kristin was on Easter Sunday in 1996. While Kristin was happy to see her family, she shared that she didn’t think Cal Poly was a good fit for her.

Regarding the letter Mesick mentioned in his opening statement, Denise said in the letter she was pushing Kristin to take actions to correct the problems she was having at Cal Poly which included a paper misplaced by her professor.

Reports say Denise was holding back tears when she said it breaks her heart knowing that was the last letter she sent her daughter. However, their Sunday calls continued and the last time she heard from her daughter was on Friday, May 24, 1996, when Kristin left a voicemail saying she had good news.

Denise went on to explain her frustration with law enforcement at the start of her daughter’s disappearance, elaborating that none of the jurisdictions were taking responsibility over the case.

She verified for the prosecution that Kristin had no known debts or bad relationships.

Paul’s defense attorney Robert Sanger then began his cross-examination of Denise.

Sanger began by asking Denise if her attorney, James Murphy Jr., sued the Flores family for money to which Denise says the point of the civil suit was to compel the Floreses to release information about Kristin’s location.

He then asked Denise if she knew Kristin would sometimes use Roxy as a nickname for herself. Denise said yes. 

Sanger also asked if Denise knew about Kristin’s modeling aspirations — Denise said no. 

Mesick then took over cross-examination of Denise, asking her about the same May 5 letter, which, as pointed out by Sanger, included Denise asking Kristin about her alleged lying.

Denise was then excused as a witness but could be called to the stand again.

Second Witness: Matt Smart

Matt Smart, Kristin’s brother, then briefly took the stand.

He testified on his family’s close relationship, sports, and trips leading up to Kristin’s disappearance.

Third Witness: Stan Smart

Kristin’s father, Stan Smart, took the stand — first testifying about the three months he spent in San Luis Obispo County following Kristin’s disappearance.

Stan told the court he searched for his daughter or her remains, followed tips, and interviewed people — estimating he spoke to around 1,000 people.

Throughout his searches, Stan told the court he never saw the Flores family out looking for Kristin.

He was then questioned by the prosecution about why he drove to Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande after his daughter went missing. 

Stan told the court after learning Paul was the last person seen with Kristin, he went to Ruben’s home and testified that he stayed in his car. Ruben told him to leave because “someone could get shot.”

During cross-examination with Sanger, Stan told the court while cadaver dogs were searching Paul’s dorm room, he was on the Cal Poly campus but not present for the dog search.

Cross-examination of Stan continued on Friday. 

Paul remains in Monterey County Jail without bail, while his father Ruben was released on bail shortly after his arrest in April 2021.

There will be no live footage or audio/video recordings allowed in the courtroom, as ordered by the judge. Only still photography is allowed. The trial is expected to last through October.

This is a developing story. Atascadero News will continue to monitor the trial and provide updates as they are available.