Kristin Smart case: Father accused of helping son hide missing student’s body released from jail


SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — The man accused of helping his son hide the body of missing California college student Kristin Smart more than two decades ago has been released from jail, according to county jail records Thursday.

Reuben Flores, 80, was arrested last week in connection to the murder of Kristin Smart, who went missing nearly 25 years ago. Reuben Flores pleaded not guilty to accessory after murder in Smart’s death. His son, Paul Flores was the last person seen with Smart before she vanished in 1996 and has been charged with her murder. Paul Flores, 44, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

Jail records Thursday morning show Reuben Flores is no longer in custody. San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen had set bail at $50,000 for Reuben Flores earlier this week.

Attorney Harold Mesick, representing Ruben Flores, said Wednesday his client poses no threat to the public and argued he should be released on his own recognizance because it would otherwise take money he needs to hire a soils expert and biologist for the case.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle said bail should remain at $250,000, which he said was affordable, based on documents submitted in court.

The judge concluded the bail should be set at $50,000, explaining that “setting bail in something more than he can afford is a detention under the law.”

His conditions of release include surrendering his passport, remaining in San Luis Obispo County and agreeing to wear an electronic monitor.

Reuben Flores, dressed in an orange inmate’s smock and appearing from jail by video, did not speak during the hearing.

Paul Flores was seen with Smart on May 25, 1996, at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where they were both freshmen. Prosecutors said he killed Smart while trying to rape her in his dorm room after he had agreed to walk her home from a party, where she had became intoxicated.

San Luis Obispo Sheriff had previously named Paul Flores the “prime suspect” in the case.

Her body has never been found.

Defense lawyers have criticized the evidence used to arrest both men last week. Attorney Harold Mesick said Monday that the evidence against the father was “so minimal as to shock the conscience.”

The document said investigators at the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department had biological evidence indicating Smart was once buried under Ruben Flores’ deck behind his home in nearby Arroyo Grande.

“The excavation below his deck … showed damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved,” Peuvrelle said.

Mesick said during a hearing Monday there were innocent explanations as to why soil had previously been dug up in Flores’ yard. He said a backhoe had excavated a trench to dump soil that was removed to lay a nearby foundation.

Peuvrelle said in the court document that Ruben Flores had lied and helped his son cover up the crime for nearly a quarter century and would continue to do so if freed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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