The judge presiding over the preliminary hearing for the two men charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart ruled this morning that there is sufficient evidence to move the case to trial.
Paul Flores and his father, Ruben, were arrested in April for their connection to Ms. Smart’s disappearance nearly 25 years after she went missing from Cal Poly’s campus. Paul has been charged with murder, and his father has been charged with accessory after the fact.
The judge’s ruling comes after a month-and-a-half-long preliminary trial, which began Aug. 2. The preliminary hearings included testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including current and former detectives, friends of Paul and Kristin, cadaver dog handlers and soil analysts.
Judge Craig van Rooyen of San Luis Obispo Superior Court said Wednesday that he has a “strong suspicion” that Ms. Smart was buried under Ruben’s deck after she was murdered by Paul. He cited various pieces of evidence to defend his ruling, including reports from cadaver dog handlers who said four dogs alerted to Paul’s dorm room during a search after Ms. Smart’s disappearance.
He also mentioned the results of a dig at Ruben’s house that disturbed soil the size of a body and revealed blood stains under his deck, saying “nothing links it definitively to Ms. Smart” because of a lack of DNA, but it leads to “reasonable suspicion” that she was buried there.
Ms. Smart was last seen with Paul when walking back to her Cal Poly dorm from an off-campus party in May 1996. Her remains have never been found, and she was declared dead in 2002. Paul was identified as a suspect early on in the investigation, but only recently did investigators compile enough evidence to arrest him.
Paul has remained in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail since the arrest in April. Ruben is currently out on bail. Both pleaded not guilty.
Paul and Ruben are scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 20.