Kristin Smart was once buried below deck of suspect’s home, court document alleges

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Documents filed in the Kristin Smart murder case allege that the missing California college student’s body was once buried in — and recently moved from — the backyard of her alleged killer’s father.

Ruben Flores, 80, of Arroyo Grande, is charged as an accessory after the fact in Smart’s death. The 19-year-old California Polytechnic State University freshman vanished May 25, 1996, as she walked back to her dorm room following an off-campus party.

She was last seen alive with Paul Flores, a classmate who offered to walk an inebriated Smart to her room. Authorities allege that Flores instead took Smart to his own dorm room and killed her during an attempted rape.

Flores, 44, of San Pedro, is charged with first-degree murder. Both he and his father have pleaded not guilty, according to The Associated Press.

>> Related story: ‘Prime suspect,’ his father charged in 1996 disappearance, murder of college student Kristin Smart

The AP reported last week that prosecutors plan to prove their case by introducing evidence of prior sexual assaults, as well as crimes Paul Flores allegedly committed in the 25 years since Smart disappeared.

“We have evidence that we do believe there were other people not yet identified that have had some kind of a criminal act perpetrated on them by Mr. Flores,” San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow said. “We’re concerned about sexual assault.”

Defense lawyers for father and son criticized the alleged evidence against the men last week. Attorney Harold Mesick told reporters Monday that the alleged evidence against Ruben Flores was “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”

The judge in the case has since issued a gag order forbidding attorneys, investigators and witnesses from speaking about the case or releasing documents.

Paul Flores remains in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he is being held without bail. Ruben Flores, who was initially held on bail of $250,000, was freed Thursday morning after his bail amount was lowered to $50,000.

The judge cited Ruben Flores’ health problems in setting a reasonable bail, the AP reported.

Matt Fountain of the Tribune in San Luis Obispo reported that the elder Flores was ordered to surrender his passport. He will also be on electronic monitoring while awaiting trial.

Court documents filed on Monday prior to Wednesday’s bail arguments were made public when Fountain released snippets on Twitter.

In the documents, Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, argued that bail should be denied for both men. He offered specific allegations about Ruben Flores, who is accused of hiding Smart’s body after his son killed her.

“The excavation below his deck at 710 White Court showed damning evidence that a body had been buried at that location and then recently moved,” Peuvrelle wrote.

A county probation report alleges that detectives “are in possession of biological evidence that makes them believe the victim was buried underneath (Ruben Flores’) deck at one time.”

The prosecutor accused the elder Flores of lying repeatedly over the past 25 years in an effort to keep his son out of prison.

“Ruben Flores has done everything possible to help his son, Paul Flores, keep the remains of Kristin Smart hidden,” Peuvrelle wrote. “Additionally, due to the evidence gleaned from the excavation, it is reasonable to believe Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains.”

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As for Paul Flores, Peuvrelle argued that dozens of women have come forward, recounting Flores’ “sexual assaults and predatory behavior that document his 25 years as a serial rapist.”

The younger defendant, the prosecutor wrote, has several out-of-state contacts and that, because of the case’s extremely high profile, “it is reasonable to believe his family would help him flee the jurisdiction if he were released, given all of the assistance he has received from them in the past.”

Smart’s parents, Stan and Denise Smart, also pleaded for the judge to keep the pair of defendants behind bars as they await trial. They said they feared for the safety of their remaining family members.

“Obviously, after 25 years of deliberately hiding the truth, we are gravely concerned this lifelong coward will seek to run if freed on bail,” the couple wrote about Ruben Flores.

In addition, they wrote that they feared his release would further hinder the family’s ability to find Smart’s remains and lay her properly to rest.

“There is nothing more important,” they wrote about finding her body.

There have been multiple searches over the years at properties owned by Paul Flores, his father and his mother, Susan Flores. Those searches appeared to take on new urgency following the release of a podcast on the case, “Your Own Backyard: The Disappearance of Kristin Smart.”

Paul Flores was named a “prime suspect” in the case last month.

Investigators again searched the properties of Paul and Ruben Flores April 13 as San Luis Obispo Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced their arrests in the case.

Paul Flores became a suspect within days of Smart’s disappearance, which took place after she attended an end-of-year party alone at a home near the Cal Poly campus. Witnesses said that Smart, who appeared to be intoxicated, had trouble walking on her own.

A couple of fellow students, including Cheryl Anderson, walked her the majority of the way back to Muir Hall, the dorm where Smart lived. Along the way, they were joined by a third student, Paul Flores.

Anderson last saw Smart alive near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Perimeter Road, when she separated from Smart and Flores, who assured her he would walk Smart the rest of the way.

“Kristin never returned to her dorm room that night and has not been seen or heard from since that time,” Parkinson said at the April 13 news conference.

Check out the nine-episode podcast about the Kristin Smart case below.

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Smart was reported missing to university police by her friends. Investigators were slow to search for her, however, initially believing that she’d gone off on her own.

San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s investigators took over the case a month after her disappearance. An attorney for Smart’s family has said that cadaver dogs who were subsequently brought to Paul Flores’ dorm room alerted, independently of one another, on the scene of human decay.

Flores, who was booked on an outstanding DUI warrant two days after Smart’s disappearance, had a black eye in his booking photo. Authorities said he gave three different stories about how he was injured.

Parkinson said that cold case investigators discovered additional evidence in 2016 that pointed to Flores as Smart’s killer. The podcast on the case, created by musician and recording engineer Chris Lambert, also brought out additional witnesses with whom authorities had never spoken.

Police obtained additional evidence last April during a search of Paul Flores’ home, the sheriff said. A search of Ruben Flores’ home last month, using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs, also turned up evidence related to Smart’s death.

The nature of that evidence has not been made public.

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