Kristin Smart’s alleged killer Paul Flores is scheduled to begin his murder trial for her decades-old disappearance next April 25, a California judge said Wednesday.
Flores, 44, appeared in a San Luis Obispo County courtroom and renewed his plea of not guilty. The judge set the trial date following a ruling last month that prosecutors had enough evidence to warrant calling a jury, KEYT-TV reported.
Flores’s 80-year-old dad, Ruben Flores, also appeared and again pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the fact. Prosecutors say he helped his son hide Smart’s body.
Paul Flores is considered the last person seen with a heavily intoxicated Smart before she mysteriously vanished from the campus of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo on May 25, 1996.
Witnesses testified at Flores’ 22-day preliminary hearing that he volunteered to escort Smart back to her Muir Hall dorm room after a party when they were freshman. Prosecutors allege he murdered the 19-year-old coed while trying to rape her in his own room.
Prosecutors presented evidence that cadaver dogs alerted to the smell of death near Flores’ bed during a search that happened weeks after she went missing, after the room had been cleared out and cleaned.
They also said Flores changed his story about how he got the black eye he was sporting days after Smart disappeared. First he claimed he got it playing basketball, but when friends challenged that statement, he backtracked and told police it must have happened while he was working on his car stereo.
They linked Ruben Flores to the alleged murder with evidence showing that traces of human blood were detected under a deck at his residence in a coastal community north of Santa Barbara. They allege the body, which has never been found, was later moved.
The judge overseeing the case did not allow prosecutors to present evidence allegedly backing up their theory that Flores has a history of drugging and sexually assaulting women.
Smart’s case languished unsolved for decades, though her family never gave up searching for her killer. The story was the subject of the popular 2019 podcast Your Own Backyard.