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Judge Orders Paul Flores, His Father, To Stand Trial For Murder In Kristin Smart Disappearance

SAN LUIS OBISPO (CBSLA/AP) – A San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge Wednesday morning ordered a San Pedro man to stand trial on a murder charge in the 1996 Northern California disappearance of college student Kristin Smart. His father has also been ordered to stand trial for being an accessory after the fact.

Fellow Student Killed Kristin Smart During Attempted Rape At Cal Poly Dorm, Prosecutors Allege
44-year-old Paul Flores and his father 80-year-old Ruben Flores, following their arrests on April 13, 2021, in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart in San Luis Obispo, Calif. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office)

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen said there was probable cause Paul Flores, 44, killed the 19-year-old Smart and that Ruben Flores, 80, helped him dispose of her body.

Paul Flores was the last person seen with a very intoxicated Smart on May 25, 1996, as he helped walk her to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo after a party, witnesses said. The two were students there at the time. Prosecutors said he killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room.

Ruben Flores is charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Prosecutors presented evidence that showed Smart's body may have been buried under a deck behind Ruben Flores's Arroyo Grande home. Prosecutors said the body had been moved from that location.

Traces of human blood found were found under the deck along with stains in the soil and a disturbance in the earth the size of a human body, according to witnesses.

Smart's body has not been found.

With a lack of DNA, "nothing links it definitively to Ms. Smart," van Rooyen said, but it leads to "a strong suspicion it was Ms. Smart's remains."

FBI Searches San Pedro Home In Connection With 1996 Disappearance Of Kristin Smart
An undated photo of 19-year-old Kristin Smart, who disappeared in May of 1996 while a student at California Polytechnic State University. (CBS News)

Defense attorneys said prosecutors did not present enough evidence during a 22-day preliminary hearing to support the criminal charges.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Flores, who has been the prime suspect in the case for decades. On April 13, Paul Flores was arrested at his San Pedro home, while his father Ruben Flores was taken into custody at his Arroyo Grande home.

In February of 2020, and again in April of 2020, detectives raided Paul Flores' San Pedro home.

He was arrested in February on an unrelated weapons charge, but was released on bail at the time.

In mid-March, authorities served a search warrant at Ruben's San Luis Obispo County home using cadaver dogs and ground penetrating radar. The day of his April arrest, a green forensic tent could be seen in the yard of Ruben's home, where San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said physical evidence believed to be linked to Smart's disappearance was located. Parkinson said evidence was also found at Paul's home.

Meanwhile, Paul Flores is also under investigation in two unrelated sexual assault cases which occurred in the past several years in the Los Angeles area.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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