Nearly a week after their arrests in the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, Paul and Ruben Flores pleaded not guilty Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to respective counts of murder and accessory.
A judge also ruled that Paul Flores will remain in jail without bail and scheduled a hearing Wednesday to find out what, if any, bail amount Ruben Flores can afford given his assets. Ruben Flores’ bail is currently set at $250,000.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, the lead prosecutor in the case, had said last week that he expected to seek a higher bail amount for Ruben Flores.
Both men appeared before Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen via Zoom conference from San Luis Obispo County Jail, with Paul Flores again appearing in a suit and tie and Ruben Flores in an orange jumpsuit.
San Pedro resident Paul Flores and his 80-year-old father, Arroyo Grande resident Ruben Flores, were arrested last Tuesday, and the District Attorney’s Office announced the criminal charges the following day.
For the first time, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow publicly alleged that Paul Flores committed the murder during the commission of a rape or attempted rape.
Paul Flores, 44, was the last person seen with Smart before her disappearance. He faces a sentence of at least 25 years to life if convicted of first-degree murder.
Ruben Flores faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison if convicted of the charge, Peuvrelle said in court Monday.
Smart's father Stan Smart was principal of Vintage High School in Napa at the time of the disappearance. She graduated from high school in Stockton, but did attend Vintage for her junior year, according to the family.
Last week, van Rooyen approved a defense request for a gag order preventing parties involved — including county Sheriff Ian Parkinson and District Attorney Dow — from making any public statements regarding the proceedings outside the courtroom.
At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, van Rooyen also scheduled two routine “pre-preliminary hearings” for May 17 and June 21, and a preliminary hearing — which will feature testimony and evidence submitted in the case — 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.
Prior to Monday’s hearing, Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, filed a motion to set a bail amount for his client, who Sanger wrote “does not pose a risk to public safety and is not a flight risk.” He argued that keeping his client in custody “will impact his ability to participate in his defense and make informed decisions regarding his case.”
“Mr. Flores has been subjected to a substantial amount of pre-arrest publicity and accusations over the last 25 years,” Sanger wrote. “He and his family have also been subject to numerous interrogations and highly publicized searches of their premises and property. Nevertheless, Mr. Flores has remained in the Southern California community.”
A bail report filed in the case also shows that the Smart family opposed bail for Paul and Ruben Flores, issuing the following statement to the court:
“Our family strongly opposes any bail being offered to Paul Flores. Given the charges filed against him that he murdered our daughter, sought and received help from his father, Ruben, and then the two collaborated to hide her and deny any knowledge of their actions for the next 25 years is simply reprehensible. This is not how mature, responsible adults act!
“Given the charges against Paul, we fear his release on bail directly threatens the safety of our family. We know the primary purpose of bail is to help ensure that a person accused of a crime does not leave town or miss specified trial dates in court. Obviously, after 25 years of deliberately hiding the truth, we are gravely concerned this lifelong coward will seek to run if freed on bail. ...
“Just as importantly, we believe he and his father are seeking bail simply because they do not like being held in confinement. They want to be released and return to the comfort of their homes. Do not treat them as children and give into their wishes. Treat them as adults who knew better but selfishly acted to protect themselves, lie about their actions, and withhold knowledge for 25 years while denying our family the chance to lay our daughter to rest.
“Offering him bail merely rewards his past actions while penalizing our family once again. The pain of his release and potential threat to our family would be devastating. We have lived with their deplorable actions long enough and do not want anything to stand between us and justice for our precious daughter and sister. We have waited 25 years to recover Kristin and his release or reduced bail would clearly jeopardize our chance to lay Kristin to rest in the embrace of her family. There is nothing more important.”
Smart family spokesman John Segale sent a statement to media following the hearing saying that the family does not have any statement regarding the proceeding.
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