Judge van Rooyen ruled the trial will not take place in San Luis Obispo County

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — During a motion hearing Wednesday morning on March 30, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen granted a change of venue for the trial of Paul (45) and Ruben (80) Flores. 

Before announcing his decision, both Ruben and Paul’s attorneys, Robert Sanger and Harold Mesick, argued the case had been overwhelmingly exposed to the public. Sanger added local prejudice by potential jurors is a clear danger. San Luis Obispo County District Attorney (DA) prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle argued against it.

Peuvrelle argued nationwide coverage of the case means familiarity with the case — it has not been centered in San Luis Obispo County only.

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Ultimately, Judge van Rooyen said he took everything presented so far into consideration but says he finds it a reasonable likelihood Paul and Ruben Flores won’t receive a fair and impartial trial in San Luis Obispo County. He added media coverage of the case over time weighed on his decision, specifically how coverage and interest in the case have increased over the years.

The father and son are charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Smart was last seen with Paul leaving an off-campus party on Crandall Way in San Luis Obispo on May 25, 1996. Although her remains have never been found, Smart was legally declared dead in 2002.

Paul is charged with her murder. His father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory after the fact, accused of helping hide Kristin’s body. Paul has remained in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail since his arrest. Ruben is currently out on bail.

Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested at their homes in April 2021, nearly 25 years after Kristin’s disappearance. On March 9, the defense filed a change of venue motion.

According to reports, the defense and prosecution would have to agree on the new location with approval from the new venue. It is likely the attorneys and judge would follow the case to the new location.

Paso Robles Press reached out to the San Luis Obispo County DA’s office. They have no comments to make at this time.