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Jury deliberating in trial over murder of college student Kristin Smart

(SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.) — The jury is deliberating in the murder trial of the man accused of killing Kristin Smart, a California college student who disappeared in 1996 while walking home from a party.

Paul Flores, 45, who walked Smart from the party and previously was named the “prime suspect,” was arrested and charged with her murder last year.

After 11 weeks of testimony, closing arguments wrapped late Tuesday afternoon and the jury is currently deliberating their verdict.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Robert Sanger told the jury, “there is no evidence of a murder so that’s really the end of it.”

“This case was not prosecuted all these years because there was no evidence and there’s still no evidence,” he said.

The prosecutor, San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, tried to show a pattern of behavior by Flores that began with Smart. Two women, Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe, testified during the trial that they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Flores in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

“Do you see a pattern here?” Peuvrelle asked the jury in his closing argument, calling Flores a “serial drugger and rapist.”

Sanger argued there was no evidence that Smart was raped or that Flores attempted to rape her and jurors should not consider the testimony of Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe.

In her instructions to the jurors, Judge Jennifer O’Keefe said they need to decide if they believe Flores drugged and raped Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe. If the answer is yes, they can rely on their testimony; if the answer is no, they cannot use their testimony.

Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, 81, was charged with being an accessory to the crime last year. Prosecutors say he helped hide Smart’s body before moving it in 2020.

The two men are being tried at the same time, with separate juries hearing the case together. After hearing closing arguments Wednesday, the jury is now deliberating in the Ruben Flores’ trial.

Once a verdict is reached by one jury, it will be sealed until the other jury reaches their verdict.

A judge earlier this year ordered that the Flores trials be moved out of San Luis Obispo County more than 100 miles away — north to Monterey County — to ensure fair legal proceedings.

Both Paul and Ruben Flores have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Smart, a 19-year-old freshman at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, disappeared in the early hours of May 25, 1996, after a party near school. Her body has never been found.

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