Suspect in Kristin Smart disappearance investigated in L.A. sexual assault cases

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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 by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department on suspicion of murder of Kristin Smart, who went missing 25 years ago after leaving a college party. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department)

Paul Flores, the man accused this week in the slaying of Cal Poly SLO student Kristin Smart in 1996, was years later investigated for sexual assault cases in the Los Angeles area, police and prosecutors have revealed.

San Luis Obispo prosecutors charged Flores with first-degree murder, alleging that he killed Smart in his college dorm room as he sexually assaulted her. He has in the past denied wrongdoing.

Authorities in Los Angeles County say Flores, who lived in San Pedro, was also the subject of sexual assault investigations locally.

What do we know about the L.A.-area cases?

LAPD Capt. Jonathan Tippet, head of the agency’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said detectives in recent months gathered evidence against Flores in two sexual assaults that allegedly occurred over several years.

The L.A. County district attorney’s office has not made a decision whether to file criminal charges against Flores in the alleged attacks.

In 2013, Redondo Beach police presented prosecutors with a rape allegation. The D.A. declined to charge Flores in that case “due to insufficient evidence," officials said.

Is there an ongoing investigation?

L.A. County authorities provided few details about the local cases, but Tippet said the two LAPD cases were open and ongoing.

San Luis Obispo County Dist. Atty. Dan Dow said his office is looking into whether Flores sexually assaulted other women in San Pedro, where he has lived since about 2005.

He asked that women who may have been assaulted by Flores contact San Luis Obispo authorities.

Where does the Smart case stand?

Flores, 44, was arrested Tuesday at his home, nearly 25 years after Smart left a party near the Cal Poly campus and vanished on the way back to her dormitory.

Dow said prosecutors decided they could prove Flores’ guilt after investigators discovered more evidence and interviewed new witnesses in the last two years. He declined to provide specifics, saying only that text messages taken from Flores’ phone had been “helpful” and that detectives obtained “very important” information in March. Investigators that month searched a home owned by Flores’ father with cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar.

“We’ve got physical evidence,” Dow said, “we have witness statements, things that, in our view, in their totality, have brought us to the point where we believe we can go forward and prosecute Mr. Flores for the murder of Kristin Smart.”

Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, 80, was charged Wednesday as an accessory to Smart’s murder. He is accused of helping his son dispose of Smart’s remains.

What is the next step?

Both men have yet to enter a plea. An arraignment scheduled for Thursday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court was postponed until Monday.

Flores' family has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Last month, his mother reiterated the claim, telling a television reporter, “We have no responsibility for her disappearance and what happened to that young woman.”

The whereabouts of Smart’s body remain a mystery. On Wednesday, Dow said “we do believe we have the location where the body was buried,” but would not elaborate. Authorities have not found Smart’s remains and are continuing to search for them, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Tuesday.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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