SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. A judge in central California ordered the murder trial of Kristin Smart to be transferred out of San Luis Obispo County on Wednesday, saying he doubted a fair trial could be held there for two men charged in the 1996 killing of the college student, whose body was never found.
Judge Craig Van Rooyen approved Paul Flores and his father’s application for a change of venue, citing widespread news coverage of the case and a plethora of conjecture on social media that he said would make it difficult to select an unbiased jury.
While the story has gotten national attention, particularly since the two men were arrested last year, he claims it has been under inspection in the relatively small coastal county of 283,000 people for decades.
“I don’t think this matter is being talked over dinner tables in other counties the way it is in this county,” van Rooyen added.
The prosecution argued that simply hearing about the case through significant media coverage would not necessarily infer that potential jurors were biassed.
The trial was supposed to begin on April 25, but it is expected to be postponed until a new location can be identified. On April 4, there will be a status meeting.
Flores, 45, is accused with Smart’s murder, which occurred 25 years ago.
Flores was last seen with an extremely inebriated Smart on May 25, 1996, as he assisted in walking her to her room at California Polytechnic State University after a party, according to witnesses. Prosecutors claim he murdered Smart in his dorm room while attempting to rape her.
Ruben Flores, his father, is accused of assisting in the disposal of her body.
Both were arrested in April of this year and have pled not guilty to the accusations.
Prosecutors have presented evidence that Smart’s body was once concealed beneath a lattice-encased deck behind Ruben Flores’ house. They claim the body was later moved and has never been found.