A California college student missing for nearly 25 years was once buried in the backyard of the home owned by the murder suspect's father, authorities said in a court document filed before bail arguments Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. The document was posted on social media by a reporter for the Tribune of San Luis Obispo. The document said investigators at the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department had biological evidence indicating Kristin Smart was once buried under Ruben Flores' deck behind his home in nearby Arroyo Grande; his son Paul, 44, was the last person seen with Smart on May 25, 1996. "The excavation below his deck ... showed damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved," prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle said. More from the AP:
- "Due to the evidence gleaned from the excavation, it is reasonable to believe Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains," Peuvrelle said. "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 prosecution in this case and continue to hide her remains."
- Smart’s remains have never been found, but authorities recently said they believe they know where she was buried, though they haven’t disclosed the location.
- Defense attorney Harold Mesick said Monday that the evidence against Ruben Flores was "so minimal as to shock the conscience," and he panned the prosecution's use of an expert with 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 elaborated, saying a backhoe had excavated a trench at the home to lay a nearby foundation. "They always deposit the [removed soil] 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."
- Paul Flores was ordered held without bail Monday. But the judge indicated he would set a reasonable bail amount Wednesday for the 80-year-old father, who has health problems. A trial could be years away.
- Nikki Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the court, said the documents were not supposed to be public. The judge in the case has issued a gag order preventing lawyers, investigators, witnesses and others from speaking about the case or releasing documents. The Tribune said it got the public documents from the courthouse.
(Paul Flores allegedly killed Smart
in his dorm room at California Polytechnic State University.)