Judge selected in Kristin Smart murder trial, to be held in Salinas

May 4, 2022

Judge Jennifer O’Keefe


The trial of accused murderer Paul Flores and his alleged accomplice Ruben Flores will be conducted in a Salinas courtroom with Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe presiding. The trial is scheduled to start on May 31, though it could be pushed out to June 6.

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed O’Keefe to serve as a judge in Monterey County in 2021. Prior to her appointment, O’Keefe worked as a public defender and taught at the Monterey College of Law.

Paul Flores is charged with murdering Kristin Smart during an attempted rape in 1996 following a Cal Poly frat party. His father Ruben Flores is suspected of helping his son dispose of Smart’s body, which prosecutors believe was buried under a deck at Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.

On April 4, Paul Flores’ attorney Robert Sanger agreed to waive time for 60 days, meaning the trial needs to start by June 11 to protect the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. San Luis Obispo County Judge Craig van Rooyen granted Paul Flores a change of venue in late March, because he did not believe the defendant could get a fair trial in SLO County.

During a 2020 raid of Paul Flores’ San Pedro home, deputies discovered homemade rape videos the suspect made of himself having sex and sodomizing women, along with two bottles of date rape drugs. Deputies also seized multiple rape videos that included titles “Drugged and raped while passed out” and “Blond high school girl in skirt gets raped.”

Deputies arrested Paul Flores and his father Ruben Flores in April 2021 for their involvement in the alleged murder of Smart.

Deputy arresting Paul Flores

During a preliminary hearing, investigators testified that Paul Flores killed Smart during an attempted sexual assault.

After more than a month of testimony, Judge van Rooyen ruled that there is probable cause for Paul and Ruben Flores to be tried in front of a jury in the alleged murder of Smart.

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I hope the prosecution has more than just pure emotion to present in court…

Well it seems there hasn’t been a body discovered. So hopefully there is at least some DNA evidence.

It is interesting to note that Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe is very close in age, 44 years old, to the age Kristin Smart would be if still alive today – 45 years old. Jennifer O’Keefe has had a rich and fulfilling adult life in finishing college, then law school, followed by a 17+ year legal career as a public defender and now Superior Court Judge. Let’s hope a mindful Judge O’Keefe can do her best to ensure justice to a young female victim who was denied such a chance to experience adult life and her contribution to society back on May 25, 1996, by the actions of two pathetic, perverse and evil excuses for men.