A Monterey County Superior Court judge in Salinas was selected to preside over the trial of the two men accused in the death and disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, according to an official on Wednesday.
Judge Jennifer O'Keefe will oversee the trial of Ruben and Paul Flores, the father and son charged in the case, according to Norma Ramirez-Zapata, a public information liaison for the Monterey County Superior Court.
San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen approved relocation of the trial out of the county after ruling on March 30 that both men would not receive a fair trial. On April 20, Rooyen named Monterey County as the locale that would play host to the trial.
O'Keefe presides over Department 4 of the courthouse in Salinas, where the trial will be held. A hearing has yet to be set, according to Ramirez-Zapata on Wednesday.
O'Keefe was a chief deputy public defender for Monterey County before she was appointed as a judge by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 25, 2021, marking the first time in more than 40 years since a public defender was named judge, according to the Monterey County Weekly.
Paul Flores, 45, of San Pedro is charged with the first-degree murder of Smart while his father Ruben Flores, 81, of Arroyo Grande, is charged with accessory to murder after the fact and is accused of burying her body underneath the deck of his residence in the 700 block of White Court. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Smart was last seen with Paul Flores close to her dorm at Cal Poly near the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue around 2 a.m. May 25, 1996, after walking back from an off-campus party, according to Cheryl Manzer, a former student who last saw them together.
Smart's body has not been located and she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Rooyen ruled there was sufficient probable cause to uphold the charges following a preliminary hearing that lasted from Aug. 2 to Sept. 22, 2021.