San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow on Wednesday said Paul Flores raped or attempted to rape and then killed missing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.
Paul Flores, 44, was arrested Tuesday morning in San Pedro.
He was charged with first-degree murder by the D.A.’s office Wednesday, while his father, Ruben Flores, 80, was charged as an accessory after the fact to murder. Ruben Flores is accused of helping to conceal Kristin’s body after the murder was committed, Mr. Dow said.
Both defendants are expected to appear for arraignment at 8:30 this morning in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.
“These charges mark a major milestone,” Mr. Dow said during a press conference at the San Luis Obispo Superior Court courthouse on Wednesday while discussing the charges in the nearly 25-year-old case. “For more than two decades, three sheriffs, three district attorneys and countless investigators have worked to bring justice to Kristin Smart.”
Mr. Dow said the Smart family has been “incredibly gracious” over the past 25 years.
“They have willed this moment to happen,” he said, “and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”
After the case was turned over to the district attorney’s office on Tuesday, Mr. Dow said his team has “carefully reviewed the case, and concluded independently that we do have enough evidence to go forward and prosecute both Mr. Paul Flores and Ruben Flores.”
Paul Flores is being held without bail, while Ruben is being held on $250,000 bail.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle will be the lead prosecutor in the case.
Mr. Peuvrelle said Wednesday the prosecution may ask for a higher bail amount during arraignment. It will be up to a judge as to whether the case is heard in San Luis Obispo or moved to a different venue.
While authorities have yet to locate Ms. Smart’s remains, Mr. Dow said his office has filed a “no body” homicide on at least one prior occasion, which was successfully prosecuted. He explained that the cases are “obviously complicated and difficult, but they’re no less important.
“In fact, they’re incredibly important for the victim’s family because they want closure, as do the Smarts in this case,” he said. “So they’re complicated, they’re difficult, but we don’t make a decision to file unless we believe we can prove the case, and so our team of exceptional professionals and very experienced prosecutors and investigators are going to do everything we can to solve this case successfully and hold Mr. Flores accountable for the murder of Kristin Smart.”
As was the case on Tuesday, the newly discovered evidence was not revealed by Mr. Dow, who cited the seals on the search warrants and the desire not to do anything to jeopardize the case.
“What I can tell you is that significant new information has come in to the Sheriff’s Office that we’ve reviewed over the last two years, and some very important information just a month ago,” he said. “We’ve got physical evidence, we have witness statements — things that in our view in the totality have brought us to believe that we can go forward and prosecute Mr. Flores for the murder of Kristin Smart.”
He added prosecutors have retrieved and collected electronic communications “that have been helpful in the case,” as well as evidence as to where Ms. Smart was taken and where the body was buried. The last place Ms. Smart was seen in May 1996 was close to the dorms and near Mr. Flores’ dorm.
“We certainly believe that Mr. Flores’ dorm room was the crime scene,” said Mr. Dow.
At this point, the evidence retrieved implicates Paul and Ruben Flores, and there is no additional evidence sufficient to charge anyone else. Mr. Dow said the investigation is ongoing, which, if it were to lead to other suspects, could result in additional action.
Paul Flores was known to frequent bars in the San Pedro area from 2005 to present day, and Mr. Dow’s office is seeking information on both the case involving Ms. Smart or other potential crimes committed by Paul Flores. Any individuals with any information are encouraged to contact the San Luis Obispo County Crime Stoppers at 805-549-7867 or www.slotips.org.
Mr. Dow later said his office was concerned about other sexual assaults committed by Paul Flores, something he said the prosecution intends to use as evidence to prove the rape or attempted rape in the case involving Ms. Smart.
“Based on that, I can tell you that we do believe … there are other people that are not yet identified that have had some kind of a … criminal act perpetrated on them by Mr. Flores,” he said.
“The story of Kristin Smart has touched us all,” Mr. Dow said. “The story of her enthusiastic spirit; her experience as a Cal Poly student; her wonderful family.
“Her story has filled us all with determination, and as her family has long become a part of our community. Today we mark the very first move to bring justice to Kristin Smart, her family and to the entire community of San Luis Obispo County.”