Paul Flores is denied bail while awaiting trial in Kristin Smart's disappearance

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Paul Flores is arrested by the San Luis Obispo Sheriffs Department on suspicion of murder of Kristin Smart
Paul Flores is arrested April 13 by the San Luis Obispo Sheriffs Department on suspicion of killing Kristin Smart. (San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Department)

A judge on Monday ordered that Paul Flores remain in a San Luis Obispo County jail as he awaits trial on charges he killed Kristin Smart during an attempted rape in 1996.

Superior Court Judge Craig B. Van Rooyen ruled there was a “substantial likelihood” that Flores, 44, would pose a danger to the public if he were granted bail and released before trial. The judge said he made the decision after reviewing information submitted under seal by investigators indicating Flores may have sexually assaulted other women.

The judge’s ruling came as police in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo counties have continued to investigate sexual assaults they suspect Flores may have committed after Smart disappeared while he and she were students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo prosecutors said last week they were investigating whether Flores sexually assaulted women in the San Pedro area, where he has lived for the last 15 years. And the Los Angeles Police Department disclosed that detectives had gathered evidence implicating Flores in two alleged sexual assaults. Redondo Beach police in 2013 presented a rape case against Flores to Los Angeles County prosecutors, who ultimately declined to file charges for lack of evidence.

Van Rooyen agreed that Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, who is charged as an accessory to Smart’s killing, should be granted bail. The bail amount will be decided after the father's assets are determined at a hearing Wednesday. Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Peuvrelle requested the accounting, saying the 80-year-old’s worth is “much higher than what he’s stated in the probation report.”

Paul Flores appeared in court Monday from jail via videoconference. Wearing a suit jacket, white shirt and striped tie, he pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder and “denies every allegation, special or otherwise,” said his attorney, Robert Sanger. His father also pleaded not guilty.

Their lawyers for the first time discussed the sealed affidavit that law enforcement officials submitted last week to a judge. Based on information presented in the document, the judge authorized the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office to make an arrest in the nearly 25-year-old case.

Smart, a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was last seen around 2 a.m. on May 25, 1996, leaving an off-campus party. Two students told police they last saw her walking with Flores, also a freshman at the university. Flores has maintained through the years that he walked Smart to within a short distance of her dormitory and returned to his room. He has denied any involvement in her disappearance or any knowledge of her whereabouts. Smart’s body has never been found.

Sanger said the affidavit contained “very little” information that “has not been a matter of public record, blogging, speculation and whatnot for over 20 years.”

Describing the document as full of “double hearsay and speculation,” Sanger questioned why authorities had decided to bring charges now and asserted that from his review of the affidavit, “not much new has appeared.”

Peuvrelle said Sanger “must not have read the same warrant I did.” He argued that searches conducted in early 2020 yielded new information and a search of Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande last month turned up “substantial evidence.” He did not elaborate.

Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Mesick, said the evidence against his client — “if we can even call it evidence” — is “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”

Mesick indicated that authorities have cited irregular soil patterns at his client’s home as evidence of his guilt. But “there are many different, innocent explanations for why the soil was disturbed,” Mesick said. He accused authorities of seizing on “more than ambiguous” opinions of experts as proof that a crime had been committed.

Peuvrelle said only that Ruben Flores’ attorney had ignored facts that “support the only logical conclusion as to what was found” at the home last month.

Van Rooyen tentatively set a preliminary hearing in the son and father's case for July 6. Peuvrelle estimated that the hearing, in which prosecutors must convince a judge they have enough evidence to bring the defendants to trial, will last 12 court days.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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