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Apr. 15—Cal Poly student Kristin Smart died as Paul Flores attempted to rape her in his dorm room, prosecutors alleged Wednesday in announcing a first-degree murder charge against the prime suspect.
"The allegation is that he was committing rape or attempting to commit a rape," said District Attorney Dan Dow, who explained the basis for seeking a first-degree murder conviction. The statute of limitations for rape has expired, he added.
Additionally, Dow said during his press conference Wednesday that his office has evidence that Flores, 44, may have sexual assault victims in the Southern California region, where he had frequented bars in San Pedro and Los Angeles since 2005.
Evidence of other sexual assaults potentially could be used in a trial against Flores, who was arrested at his San Pedro home on Tuesday and booked into the San Luis Obispo County Main Jail without bail.
Dow said he believes investigators have evidence pointing to the location where Smart's body was taken after she died as well as "significant" new evidence produced over the last year.
Ruben Flores, 80, also was charged Wednesday as an accessory to Smart's murder. Dow said he believes Smart's body was taken from Flores' dorm room and that Ruben helped his son conceal the body. He remains at the Main Jail with bail set at $250,000, although Dow said his office may ask for a higher bail.
Flores' mother, Susan, has not been arrested, according to Dow.
Both Paul and Ruben Flores are scheduled to appear for arraignments at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Department 3 of San Luis Obispo Superior Court, where the hearing will be livestreamed. Limited public seating will be available inside the courtroom, according to officials.
Dow expressed concern over some trial issues, including the possibility of faded eyewitness memories after 25 years, but discounted any worries about an impartial jury or trying a murder case without a body.
"No-body homicides are no doubt complicated, but they are no less important," Dow said, adding that such cases have been successfully tried in the past. "The criminal justice system is continuous, it plods along."
When questioned about a plea deal in exchange for information about Smart's body, Dow said comment was premature.
On Tuesday, a search warrant was served at Ruben's home in the 700 block of White Court in Arroyo Grande, where investigators used heavy equipment that resulted in grinding and hammering sounds. That search concluded at 5 p.m., with no new information released. Investigators resumed their operations Wednesday, finishing about midday.
During a press conference Tuesday at Cal Poly, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said that the investigation has revealed items of "value" that were linked to Smart in at least two separate locations, but he did not say what they were. Parkinson believes law enforcement is closer to finding Smart's body.
Anyone with additional information in the Smart case or any potential crimes committed by Flores is asked to contact SLO County Crime Stoppers at 805-549-7867 or go to www.slotips.org.
4-13-21 Smart family statement on the arrests of Paul and Ruben Flores
For over twenty-four years, we have waited for this bittersweet day. It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family; we pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home. While Kristin's loving spirit will always live in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates. The knowledge that a father and son, despite our desperate pleas for help, could have withheld this horrible secret for nearly 25 years, denying us the chance to lay our daughter to rest, is an unrelenting and unforgiving pain. We now put our faith in the justice system and move forward, comforted in the knowledge that Kristin has been held in the hearts of so many and that she has not been forgotten.
We honor Kristin today and those who worked with [unparalleled] tenacity and dedication to bring us to this day. Without Kristin in our life, there will never be justice, but we will pray for peace. Unfortunately, the indifference and lack of resolve we experienced early on set the course for many years.
However, when Sheriff Parkinson took office in 2011, he made a promise that Kristin's disappearance would be one of his top priorities. We are here today because he has remained true to his word. We have kept the faith; never given up; and fully placed our trust and support with him and his team.
The task he and his team accepted was unprecedented in volume and scope, yet they met every setback and challenge with resolve and an unequaled commitment to Kristin and our family.
Our gratitude to Sheriff Parkinson and his department for their professionalism, compassion, and perseverance is without measure. We are forever grateful for Detective Clint Cole who joined 'Team Kristin' in 2017 and brought new oxygen to Team Kristin and kept our hopes alive. We would not be here today without his professionalism, perseverance, and dedication. His heart and commitment are without equal.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the exceptional skills, indefatigable work and unselfish dedication of Christopher Lambert who produced Your Own Backyard Podcast. Chris, along with four incredible angels (C, J, J, and J), balanced Kristin on their shoulders while lightening our burden and held our hearts and hopes with fierce resolve and commitment. There simply are 'no words'!
We also wish to extend our deepest gratitude for all those on the SLOSO team, including Commander Nate Paul, Detective Cole, and their incredible and dedicated support staff. To each law enforcement agency that assisted the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department with their extraordinary efforts, our gratitude is immeasurable. Each gave 110% to ensure that this day would come.
We are pleased that Kristin's case has now moved to the district attorney's office, where we know we will be in good hands, and look forward to the day when there will be 'justice' for Kristin.
To HEAL, we must REMEMBER not only Kristin but also every heart that carried Kristin and our family in theirs! Kristin's story is ultimately one of unwavering commitment, resilience and immense gratitude.