NewsKristin Smart Case


How do homicide trials differ when a victim's body is never located?

Kristin Smart.PNG
Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 22:48:36-04

As we await verdicts in the Kristin Smart murder trial, we talked to a local attorney about how the deliberation process may differ from other cases since Smart's body has never been found.

Paul Flores is charged with Smart's murder. His father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory after the fact, accused of helping hide the body.

Paul Flores and Kristin Smart were students at Cal Poly when she disappeared in 1996.

Her body has never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

San Luis Obispo defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu, who is not associated with this case, says that traditionally, it can be more difficult to convict a defendant of homicide when the victim's body is never discovered.

However, he also adds there is no requirement that there be a body in order to convict someone of murder, placing the responsibility on the prosecution to provide an explanation as to why a victim could not be located.

In the case against Paul Flores, he is charged with murdering Kristin while raping or attempting to rape her. Funke-Bilu says it may be more challenging for jurors to settle on a guilty verdict on this aspect of the case, even more so considering the deliberations are taking place more than 25 years since Kristin was last seen alive.

"I understand that there was some evidence from witnesses who testified to rapes occurring years after, I get that," Funke-Bilu told KSBY. "That is evidence that he engaged in sexual conduct with a female later on. But how can we, from that, jump to his behavior, a decade, 15 years earlier?"

Funke-Bilu also adds that since Kristin Smart's body was never discovered, much of the evidence presented can be interpreted as "circumstantial," meaning it does not necessarily prove a fact but gives rise to its possibility. He says both Paul and Ruben's juries will likely take this into consideration as they continue deliberations.

Deliberations are expected to continue Friday at 8:30 a.m.