For the first time, investigators in the Kristin Smart murder case said they believe her body was “recently” moved after being buried outside Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home, a court document shows.
A Sheriff’s Office detective said in a county probation report obtained by The Tribune that investigators “are in possession of biological evidence that makes them believe the victim was buried underneath (Ruben Flores’) deck at one time.”
The detective added that recent searches at the home revealed “damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved.”
Ruben Flores, 80, is the father of 44-year-old San Pedro resident Paul Flores, who is charged with murdering Smart in 1996 after walking back to the Cal Poly campus with her following a party. Ruben Flores is accused of helping his son cover up the crime — including possibly moving Smart’s body.
Under a gag order from a Superior Court judge, players in the Kristin Smart murder case aren’t allowed to discuss evidence or other details outside the courtroom.
But court records filed Monday appear to shed more light on the prosecution’s case.
Also for the first time, prosecutors revealed in the court documents that “dozens of women have recounted Paul Flores’ sexual assaults and predatory behavior that document his 25 years as a serial rapist.”
But a defense attorney for Ruben Flores criticized the prosecution’s evidence in the case — presented to the court Monday in a sealed affidavit — calling alleged evidence “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”
Due to the protective order in the case, officials are precluded from confirming or elaborating on those statements outside the courtroom.
At a news conference last week announcing criminal charges against the Floreses, District Attorney Dan Dow said only that prosecutors plan to introduce evidence of past sexual assaults by Paul Flores in the murder case against him. Dow said at the time that Flores committed the murder during the commission of rape or attempted rape.
Paul Flores is charged in the disappearance of Smart, who was last seen being walked to her dorm by Flores following a late-night party in May 1996.
They were arrested last week following law enforcement searches of several properties tied to the Flores family, including Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.
Paul Flores’ Bail Report
A county probation report prepared in advance of Monday’s arraignment and bail hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores, Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle, the lead prosecutor in the cases, argued in a bail memorandum that no bail should be allowed for Paul Flores because he’s a flight risk and a risk to public safety.
Saying that Paul Flores has “numerous out-of-state contacts” and that it “is reasonable to believe his family would help him flee the jurisdiction if he were released,” Peuvrelle said that dozens of women have told of sexual assaults.
“If he were released from custody the court would be putting a serial rapist back on the streets and leave him free to victimize additional women,” Peuvrelle wrote.
Sheriff’s Det. Clint Cole, lead investigator in the case, is quoted in the report saying that “biological evidence” was found at Paul’s father’s home and that “both the defendant and his father are involved and it is a family crime.”
Cole wrote that should Paul Flores be released, “he could move the body again.”
During Monday’s hearing, Peuvrelle countered an argument by Paul Flores’ attorney Robert Sanger by telling Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen that “there’s substantial new evidence” from recent property searches that support the charges in the case.
Van Rooyen denied bail for Paul Flores.
Ruben Flores’ Bail Report
Peuvrelle also opposed any bail for Ruben Flores, whose release “would constitute an imminent risk to public safety,” he said.
“Ruben Flores has repeatedly lied over the course of 24 years and has been uncooperative with law enforcement with the specific intent of aiding Paul Flores escape prosecution,” Peuvrelle is quoted as saying in the county probation bail report. “The excavation below his deck at 710 White Court showed damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved.”
It continues: “Ruben Flores has done everything possible to help his son, Paul Flores, keep the remains of Kristin Smart hidden. Additionally, due to the evidence gleaned from the excavation, it is reasonable to believe Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains. Should he be allowed bail, it is a virtual certainty that he would use his freedom to continue his attempts to help Paul Flores thwart the prosecution in this case and continue to hide her remains.”
Cole is quoted as saying that in addition to the accessory he’s charged with, Ruben Flores “has committed felony criminal fraud in addition to his involvement in the homicide.”
The report says Cole “has personally seen the fraudulent documents of the defendant’s illegal fraud.”
But during his argument for Ruben Flores’ release, defense attorney Harold Mesick also elaborated on possible evidence in the case.
“The evidence against him in this case, your Honor, it is absolutely — if we can even call it evidence — it is so minimal as to shock the conscience,” Mesick said.
Mesick called into question the reliability of an expert supposedly cited in the sealed affidavit who has a master’s degree in archaeology.
“She’s not a soil scientist or a geotechnical engineer in any regard, and if she had been, she would have seen where they discovered their damning evidence in this case, there are many different innocent explanations for why the soil was disturbed, primarily because it’s between two continuous building foundations,” Mesick said, appearing to reference evidence related to the law enforcement dig at Ruben Flores’ property.
He continued: “So when these foundations were built, they brought a backhoe in. It’s a two-story home so they had to excavate a minimum of 2 feet into the earth, 15 to 18 inches wide, and then deposit what they call the spoils somewhere. They always deposit the spoils outside the foundation, which is where they claim the soil was a ‘hot mess’ — It was a hot mess, because it’s been previously excavated, your Honor.”
He said “the evidence itself is more than ambiguous,” and that the expert herself said the evidence “neither confirms nor denies, and I’m not going to say what, but it leans toward one fact than another.”
Peuvrelle responded that Mesick ignored several key parts of the sealed evidence.
Van Rooyen said Monday he intends to grant Ruben Flores — who he acknowledged is “very ill” and not a public safety risk — a reasonable amount of bail based on his financial situation, at a hearing Wednesday.
If convicted, Paul Flores faces sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Ruben Flores faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted, Peuvrelle said in court Monday.
Paul and Ruben Flores are scheduled to be back in court for routine hearings May 17 and June 21, and a preliminary hearing — which will feature testimony and evidence submitted in the case — is scheduled for July 6.
The preliminary hearing, during which van Rooyen will decide whether the prosecution has established probable cause to justify the charges in the case, is expected to take 12 full days of testimony, van Rooyen said.