Paul Flores WILL go to trial over the murder of Kristin Smart and his father will be tried for ‘helping him move her body’ before cops executed a search warrant at his home earlier this year
Kristin Smart, 19, was last seen May 25, 1996, with fellow freshman Paul Flores, also 19, who walked her dorm at California Polytechnic State University after a party off-campus
Prosecutors accused Flores of killing Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room
A San Luis Obispo County judge ruled Wednesday there was probable cause that Flores, 44, killed Smart, and his 80-year-old father helped dispose of the body
Flores was the last person seen with Smart on May 25, 1996, when he helped walk her to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University after a party
Smart’s body was never found – prosecutors presented evidence that the body was at one point buried under a deck shielded by lattice behind Ruben Flores’s Arroyo Grande home – before the body was moved to another location by Paul Flores, with his father’s help
Paul Flores will now stand trial for murder in the commission of a rape or attempted rape for the 1996 killing
Ruben Flores, his father, will be tried as an accessory, for allegedly helping his son conceal and dispose of the 19-year-old’s body
The man accused of killing California college student Kristin Smart in 1996 will stand trial for murder after a San Luis Obispo County judge’s ruling Wednesday. The suspect’s octogenarian father will also to face charges after allegedly helping his son move the 19-year-old girl’s body, 25 years ago.
Paul Flores, 44, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with allegedly killing Smart in 1996 after an off-campus party at the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo, 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Prosecutors said he killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room.
Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen ruled that there was probable cause that Peter Flores killed Smart, and that Ruben Flores, now 80, helped dispose of her body, which was never found.
Ruben Flores is charged with being an accessory to murder.
The ruling which concluded a 22-day preliminary hearing that included testimony from witnesses, experts and detectives, reportedly, was met with gasps from the gallery where Smart´s parents sat with other family members and supporters.
The Flores, father and son, were arrested in April in connection to Smart’s disappearance.
Even with the absence of a body, Kristin Smart was declared legally dead in 2002.
Authorities said Paul Flores, who was a 19-year-old college freshman at the time, walked Smart home on May 25, 1996 and was the last person seen with her. He was escorting a very intoxicated Smart, ‘helping’ walk her back to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University after hitting on her all night and behaving ‘hyperactively’ at a party they’d both attended off-campus, witnesses said.
Prosecutors allege 19-year-old Paul Flores then killed Smart, 19, while trying to rape her in his dorm room.
During Flores’ trial, the prosecution presented evidence that Smart’s body was at one point buried under a deck shielded by lattice behind Ruben Flores’s Arroyo Grande home.
Traces of human blood were discovered under the deck by investigators during a search in March, along with stains in the soil and a disturbance in the earth roughly the size of a human body.
Prosecutors say that the body was moved from that location by Paul Flores, with his father’s help – Smart’s body was never found.
With a lack of DNA at the scene, ‘nothing links it definitively to Ms. Smart,’ Judge van Rooyen declared in court, but added that there is ‘a strong suspicion it was Ms. Smart´s remains.’
Lawyers representing the father and son argued that prosecutors did not present enough evidence after 22 days – and a month-and-a-half – of witness testimony and prosecutors’ arguments during the pair’s preliminary hearing, to warrant any criminal charges for the father and son.
Judge Van Rooyen, however, ruled that there was indeed probable cause to charge and try the two – who were cuffed by investigators after a popular podcast prompted police to reopen Smart’s long-cold missing persons case.
Paul is charged with murder in the commission of a rape or attempted rape for the 1996 killing.
Ruben is charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly helping his son conceal Smart’s body.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors also presented evidence that four cadaver dogs stopped at Flores’ college dorm room, where they allege the murder took place, in 1996 and gave their handler ‘probably the strongest alert I’ve seen’ to the scent of death near the college student’s bed, she told the court in August.
Van Rooyen did, however, prevent prosecutors from submitting evidence for the case in the form of court documents that allege Paul Flores drugged and raped four women and engaged in dozens of disreputable acts like stalking, unwanted touching and aggressive sexual behavior.
According to the court documents, 30 women have come forward to accuse Flores of sexual misconduct, with some of them telling investigators that they woke up in the suspect’s home without remembering how they got there. **Several told police that Flores was referred to as ‘Chester the molester’ and ‘psycho Paul.’
Four of the women allege they were raped.
The judge decreed that the evidence had limited relevance to the murder case and risked creating greater prejudice against Flores.
When Flores first spoke with police, he downplayed his interactions with Smart at the party and on the walk home. He said she walked to her dorm under her own power, though other witnesses said Flores was helping hold her up and that she had passed out earlier in the night.
Three days after Smart disappeared, Flores had a black eye that he told police he got playing basketball. Friends disputed that account and Flores later changed his story to say it happened while working on his car.
Van Rooyen said Flores’ comments about the black eye showed a ‘consciousness of guilt.’
William Hanley, head of the district attorney´s investigative bureau in 1996, said Flores eventually stopped cooperating with authorities.
When Hanley asked Flores what he thought happened to Smart, he said she probably left with somebody and ‘he thinks she´s dead,’ Hanley said.
Prosecutors now face the challenge of having to prove to a jury that a murder and cover-up occurred 25 years after the fact – without being able to show definitively that Smart was killed.
If convicted, Paul Flores could face life in prison. He will remain in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail through the trial.
Ruben Flores faces up to three years in jail. He remains out of custody after posting $50,000 bail back in April.