A judge presiding over a preliminary hearing for two men who have been charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart ruled Wednesday morning that there is sufficient evidence to move the case forward to trial.
Paul and Ruben Flores were both charged in connection with the disappearance of Smart, then a student at California Polytechnic State University.
Smart was last seen walking back to the dorms at the school with Paul Flores after attending an off-campus party.
While her remains have never been found, Smart was declared legally dead in 2002.
Paul Flores and his father, Ruben, were arrested at their homes this past April, nearly 25 years after Kristin's disappearance.
Paul Flores is charged with Smart's murder. Ruben Flores is charged as an accessory after the fact and accused of helping hide Smart's body.
Paul Flores has remained in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail since his arrest. Ruben is currently out on bail.
The judge's ruling followed a month-and-a-half-long preliminary hearing which began on Aug. 2. The hearing included testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including current and former detectives, former friends and acquaintances of both Paul Flores and Smart, cadaver dog handlers, and soil experts.
Several people recalled seeing Flores walking with Smart, who was visibly drunk, back to the dorms after a party on Crandall Way early on the morning of May 25, 1996.
Cadaver dog handlers who searched the dorms after Smart was reported missing testified that their dogs strongly alerted to Paul's room.
Forensic experts testified they found human blood in the dirt beneath the deck of Ruben Flores's home in Arroyo Grande but were unable to detect any DNA.
During closing arguments on Monday, defense attorneys said the prosecution presented no real evidence and argued that there was no case against Paul or Ruben Flores.
Paul and Ruben Flores are scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 20.
The judge said that Ruben Flores was “protective” of the deck at 710 White Court and he had knowledge what was under the deck.— Alexa Bertola (@Alexa_Bertola) September 22, 2021
The judge said that there was some dispute about when Paul Flores’ black eye appeared. PF admitted he lied about getting a black eye while playing basketball and then said he got it while fixing a car stereo. The judge said his lies showed his “consciousness of guilt.”— Alexa Bertola (@Alexa_Bertola) September 22, 2021
Following the judge's ruling on Wednesday, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said via Twitter, "We continue to support the family of Kristin Smart as we work toward justice."
The preliminary hearing has concluded in the cases of Paul and Ruben Flores. A judge has determined sufficient evidence was presented for the two to be tried.— SLO County Dist Atty (@SLOCounty_DA) September 22, 2021
"We continue to support the family of Kristin Smart as we work toward justice," said District Attorney Dan Dow. @dandow
This story was originally published by Katherine Worsham on Scripps station KSBY in San Luis Obispo, California.