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Kristen Smart murder trial coming to Monterey County

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV) -- The Kristen Smart murder trial has been chosen to be moved to Monterey County Superior Court after a ruling from the San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

"The prosecution and the defense preferred that it come here, it was a place they could agree on. In terms of us getting a say, the court got a say because the court has to host this trial," said Berkley Brannon, Monterey County Chief Assistant DA.

Paul Flores, 45, is said to have allegedly killed a Cal Poly student named Kristen Smart, 19, after she had attended an off-campus party back in 1996.

“I think it’s great for the victim’s family that this cold case might actually be solved," said Chris Cobb, Monterey resident.

Flores' father Ruben, 80, is accused of helping him hide Smart's body.

“In terms of a case like this I think regardless of where it is, it’s important to make sure that this gets completely taken care of," said Tony Casas, Marina Resident.

Many people who live in San Luis Obispo County are familiar with the murder of Smart.

The decision for the case to be moved comes after Judge Craig van Rooyen ruled last month, that both Paul and Ruben Flores wouldn't be able to receive a fair trial in San Luis Obispo County because of all the pretrial publicity.

“The whole idea of doing this is to get a jury pool different from the one that they would get down in San Luis Obispo County and the theory is that the case is so famous down there that they’re not going to be able to get a fair and impartial jury," said Brannon

Monterey County is providing the courtroom, the judge, and the jurors for this trial.

Some people are concerned that Monterey County residents would have to pay in taxpayer money to host this trial.

“I don’t think there’s any cost in terms of providing the courtroom. I think it’s mostly just shifting things around and it might be a little bit inconvenient but it can be done for the length of the trial," said Brannon.

Everyone else involved with the case will travel the roughly 150-mile distance to come to Monterey County.

“All of the parties and the witnesses are having travel to here. The prosecutors have to find a place to live, the defense attorney has to find a place to live," said Brannon.

Both men on trial were arrested in April 2021, more than two decades after Smart's disappearance.

Paul Flores is still in custody while his father Ruben is free on bail.

Currently, there is no date for the trial to start in Monterey County.

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Joronica Vinluan

Reporter/ Weekend Producer for KION News Channel 5/46

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