Judge Moves Kristin Smart Lawsuit Out of County California

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A judge on Wednesday ordered that the Kristin Smart murder case be moved from San Luis Obispo County in central California, saying he doubted a fair trial could take place there for two men accused of the 1996 murder of the student, whose body was never found.

Judge Craig Van Rooyen approved a motion of substitution for Paul Flores and his father, noting extensive coverage of the case and a body of speculation on social media that he said would be difficult to find an unbiased jury.

He said that while the case had received national attention, especially since the two men were arrested last year, it has been under investigation for decades in the relatively small coastal province of 283,000 people.

“I don’t think this matter is being discussed at tables in other provinces as it is in this province,” Van Rooyen said.

The prosecution opposed a change of venue, arguing that just hearing about the case through widespread coverage would not necessarily mean that potential jurors were biased.

The trial was set to begin on April 25, but is expected to be delayed while a new location is found. A status conference is scheduled for April 4.

Flores, 45, is charged with the murder of Smart, who disappeared 25 years ago.

Flores was the last person seen with a very drunk Smart on May 25, 1996, when he helped her to her dorm room at California Polytechnic State University after a party, witnesses said. Prosecutors said he killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room.

His father, Ruben Flores, 80, is accused of helping to dispose of her body.

Both were arrested last April and have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors have presented evidence that Smart’s body was once buried under a deck, shielded by a grille behind Ruben Flores’ home. They say the body was later moved and never found.

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