Suspects in Kristin Smart’s 1996 disappearance to stand trial

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A California man authorities suspect of killing Kristin Smart, a 19-year-old college student who vanished 25 years ago, and his father can be tried in her presumed death after prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Paul Flores, 44, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with allegedly killing Smart in 1996 after an off-campus party at the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo, 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Prosecutors said he killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room.

His father, Ruben Flores, 80, helped dispose of her body, authorities allege. He is charged with being an accessory to murder.


Wednesday's ruling capped off a 22-day preliminary hearing that included testimony from witnesses, experts and detectives.

In a tweet, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said a "judge has determined sufficient evidence was presented for the two to be tried."

"We continue to support the family of Kristin Smart as we work toward justice," he wrote.

Harold Mesick, attorney for Ruden Flores, told Fox News his client plans to plead not guilty to the charge against him when he is arraigned on Oct 20.

"There's a very low burden at a preliminary hearing and apparently the judge believes the prosecution met it," he said.

Fox News has also reached out to the attorney for Paul Flores and a representative for the Smart family.

Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested in April in connection to Smart's disappearance. She was declared legally dead in 2002. Authorities said Paul Flores, who was a 19-year-old college freshman at the time, walked Smart home on May 25, 1996 and was the last person seen with her.

He has been accused by several women of sexual assault and other types of predatory behavior in the years after Smart vanished.

During the hearing, investigators said they believed Smart's body may have been buried behind the home of Ruben Flores and subsequently moved. Traces of human blood found were found under the deck along with stains in the soil and a disturbance in the earth the size of a human body, according to witnesses.

With a lack of DNA, "nothing links it definitively to Ms. Smart," the judge said, but it leads to "a strong suspicion it was Ms. Smart’s remains."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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