San Pedro man and his father plead not guilty to charges in Kristin Smart case

A 44-year-old San Pedro man and his father pleaded not guilty Monday, April 19, to charges stemming from the disappearance and death of Kristin Smart nearly 25 years ago.

Paul Flores pleaded not guilty to murder in San Luis Obispo County Court. Ruben Flores, 80, of Arroyo Grande, pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the fact. Prosecutors accused the elder Flores of helping his son conceal Smart’s body.

Paul Flores was ordered to remain in jail with no bail, but an additional hearing was scheduled for Ruben Flores for Wednesday, at which there will be a discussion for reduced bail and conditional release.

His attorney, Harold Mesick, argued that his client had no prior criminal history and was not a threat due to his medical condition, which requires blood pressure checks and 17 different medications.

He also claimed the evidence against Ruben Flores was “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”

The two men were arrested simultaneously on April 13 after a judge signed off on arrest warrants for both, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said last week.

Paul Flores, who is from Torrance and has lived in San Pedro for 10 years, was the last known person to see Smart alive and was seen walking with her after she had returned to California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo following an off-campus party about 2 a.m. on May 25, 1996. They were both freshmen at the college at the time she disappeared.

Flores was accused of killing Smart in his dorm room either during the commission of a rape, or afterwards, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said.

After serving several search warrants at four locations since February 2020 and finding physical evidence connected to Smart, a judge signed arrest warrants for the two men, Parkinson said.

Among the items authorities seized were two trucks and a car belonging to the Flores family. Other items of evidence collected have not been discussed as the warrants have been under seal.

But Smart’s body has not been found, Parkinson said.

Los Angeles police Capt. Jonathan Tippet said last week that Flores also was the subject of two sexual assault cases in Los Angeles County, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had yet to decide whether to pursue those charges.

Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, argued some of the sexual assault allegations “make no sense,” while arguing for reduced bail. Paul Flores has remained in California despite being advised he would be arrested.

But prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle said Paul Flores still had connections to help him get out of the state at his request and the addition of a murder charge presented a large change in circumstances.

“That fundamentally changes that equation,” Peuvrelle said.

A preliminary hearing, at which a judge hears some or all of the evidence and determines whether enough exists to order the defendants to stand trial, is set for July 6.

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