Kristin Smart’s body was once buried in the backyard of the California home owned by murder suspect Paul Flores’ father, but has recently been moved, prosecutors say.
Smart’s body, which has still not been found after nearly 25 years, has reportedly been recently moved from Ruben Flores’s home, authorities said in a court document filed Monday.
Ruben Flores, 80, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge of complicity in hiding Smart’s body after his son allegedly murdered her in 1996 while attempting rape in his dorm room at his California Polytechnic State University.
Paul, now 44, pleaded not guilty to murder.
He was the last person seen with Smart, who witnesses say was drunk at the time after he offered to take her home after an off-campus party.
Kristin Smart’s body was once buried in the backyard of the California home owned by murder suspect Paul Flores’ father, but was recently moved before investigators raided the property, prosecutors claim.
Paul and Ruben were both arrested last week and charged on Monday.
The court document, filed ahead of the bail arguments and first reported by The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, claims researchers have biological evidence proving Smart was once buried on Ruben’s property.
Kristin Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996, along with Paul Flores as she returned to her dorm at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party.
Investigators raided the house after the arrests last week and could be seen dismantling a deck that leads underneath the house.
“The excavation beneath his deck … provided damning evidence that a body had been buried at that location and then recently moved,” said prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle.
Peuvrelle, who said Ruben has covered up the crime for nearly a quarter of a century, argued that he would continue to do so if released on bail.
“Because of the evidence gathered in the excavation, it is reasonable to assume that Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains,” Peuvrelle said.
“Should he be released on bail, it is a virtual assurance that he will use his freedom to continue his efforts to help Paul Flores thwart prosecution in this case and to keep hiding her remains.”
Defense lawyers last week criticized the evidence used to arrest both men.
Attorney Harold Mesick said on Monday that the evidence against the father was “so minimal that conscience was shaken.”
Ruben Flores, 80, (right) pleaded not guilty to charges of complicity after the murder for hiding Smart’s body after his son allegedly murdered her in 1996. Paul Flores (left), now 44, pleaded not guilty to murder
Despite being a suspect from day one, investigators say they never had enough evidence to charge Paul Flores with Kristin Smart’s disappearance until Tuesday when he was taken into custody (above) on suspicion of murdering the 19-year-old
Smart’s remains have still not been found, but authorities recently announced that they believe they know where she is buried.
The father and son’s arrests came a month after investigators used ground-penetrating radar and corpse dogs on a search for Smart’s remains at Ruben’s home.
They did not disclose what was found during that search, but returned to the yard after the arrests to dismantle the deck.
The defense attorney has wondered why investigators had to keep looking for evidence after arrests. At the time of the April 13 arrests, the sheriff said he believed he had enough evidence to win convictions.
Mesick argued that there were many innocent explanations as to why soil had previously been excavated in the garden. He said a digger had dug a trench to dump soil removed to lay a nearby foundation.
Paul Flores was ordered to be held without bail, but his father’s bail amount has yet to be determined.
Last week’s arrests followed important developments in the case in recent years, when new witnesses came forward, investigators checked Paul’s cell phone and text messages, and searches were conducted in separate homes where Flores, his father, mother and sister live.
Investigators, who launched a renewed search of his father’s property (above) in nearby Arroyo Grande last week, believe they know where the body was buried but have not yet found it or have made the location public.
The case dates back to May 25, 1996, when Smart was last seen returning to her dorm on the campus of Cal Poly University at approximately 2 a.m. after an off-campus party.
A then 19-year-old Flores, who was a fellow freshman at the school, had offered to take her home from the party.
The younger Flores, long a suspect in Smart’s disappearance in 1996, was a former classmate and the last known person to see Smart the night she disappeared. He has never been charged with her disappearance
Smart was not reported missing to Cal Poly police until three days after she was last seen.
Her roommate said at the time that police were initially reluctant to report missing persons because it was Memorial Day weekend and she may have left campus.
As the last person to see Smart alive, Flores was under suspicion from the start.
During the investigation, four different search dogs trained to pick up the scent of human remains led police to Flores’ dormitory. No evidence has ever been found in Flores’s room.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002.
Several search efforts have been conducted over the years, including excavating three different hilly sites near the campus in 2016.
Investigators served more than 40 search warrants in 16 locations over the years, collected nearly 200 new pieces of evidence, and used modern DNA techniques to test more than three dozen older pieces of evidence.
Flores was silent during the decades-long investigation.
He has previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions before a grand jury and in a statement for a lawsuit filed against him in connection with the investigation.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002, but her body has never been found