In the 25 years since Kristin Smart disappeared, the last person seen with her has been described as a person of interest, then a suspect, then a prime suspect, per the Los Angeles Times. Now, Paul Flores will be a defendant in a murder trial. San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen ruled Wednesday that there is enough evidence to put Flores on trial for murder and to try his father, 80-year-old Ruben Flores, as an accessory to the crime, the AP reports. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Flores, 44, and his father were arrested in April. Prosecutors say Flores killed Smart as he raped or tried to rape her in his dorm room at the California Polytechnic State University campus. Her body was allegedly buried under the deck at Ruben Flores' home. In a court document filed last month, prosecutors said an excavation had uncovered "damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved." Smart's body was never found but she was declared legally dead in 2002. Witnesses say they last saw Smart, 19, with Flores on May 25, 1996. They say she was extremely drunk after an off-campus party and Flores had offered to walk her back to her dorm room.
At the hearing, which began Aug. 2 and ran for 22 days, prosecutors described Flores as a predator who "has raped so many women, it's hard to keep track," the Times reports. They said detectives had found possible date rape drugs in his home, along with videos of Flores having sex with women who appeared to be intoxicated. The judge, however, did not allow testimony about the rape allegations and rape charges against Flores from 2011 and 2017, saying it had limited relevance to the murder case. Prosecutors said Flores also stalked women.
A witness testified Monday that Flores told her in 1996 that he had "taken care" of Smart, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports. Jennifer Hudson, who was 17 at the time, said Flores laughed when he spoke to her. She said she didn't tell anybody about his remarks until six years later because she was afraid she would "end up missing or buried someplace." (A podcaster helped draw attention to overlooked witnesses in the case.)