Oroville Mercury-Register

Last person seen with Kristin Smart in 1996 heading to trial

- By Brian Melley

LOS ANGELES » The last person seen with Kristin Smart before she vanished from a college campus 25 years ago on the Central California coast will stand trial on a murder charge in her suspected death and his father faces trial as an accomplice for allegedly helping bury her body, a judge ruled Wednesday.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen said there was probable cause Paul Flores, 44, killed Smart and that Ruben Flores, 80, helped dispose of her body, which has never been found.

The ruling was met with gasps from the gallery where Smart’s parents sat with other family members and supporters, The Tribune reported.

Paul Flores was the last person seen with a very intoxicate­d Smart on May 25, 1996, as he helped walk her to her dorm at California Polytechni­c State University after a party, witnesses said. Prosecutor­s said he killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room.

Prosecutor­s presented evidence that Smart’s body was once buried under a deck shielded by lattice behind Ruben Flores’s home. Prosecutor­s said the body had been moved from that location and it’s never been located.

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.

Defense attorneys said prosecutor­s did not present enough evidence during a 22-day preliminar­y hearing to support the criminal charges. But van Rooyen said there was probable cause, a lesser standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt, which prosecutor­s will have to prove at trial.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

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