SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said his office has filed a felony murder charge against Paul Flores who is alleged to have killed Kristin Smart during an attempted rape.
"These charges mark a major milestone," Dow said. "Today, we make the first move toward bringing justice to Kristin, her family, and the people of San Luis Obispo County."
Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, were arrested Tuesday as part of the decades-long investigation into the disappearance of Smart.
During a news conference in San Luis Obispo, Dow released more details into what may have happened to Smart on May 25, 1996 on the campus of Cal Poly.
Dow said Paul Flores is facing a felony murder charge, and that he is alleged to have killed Kristin Smart during the commission of rape or during an attempted rape. Although the statute of limitations for rape has expired, Dow said the rape is the basis for filing felony murder charges.
"The charge against Paul Flores is murder," said Dow. "It is alleged that Flores caused the death of Kristin Smart while in the commission of, or attempted rape. That is first degree murder under California law."
Dow also said that Paul Flores' 1996 dorm room is considered to be a crime scene.
"The last place where Kristin was seen was close to the dorms, and near Mr. Flores' dorm," said Dow. "We certainly believe that Mr. Flores' dorm room was the crime scene."
Paul's father Ruben Flores is alleged to have helped conceal Smart's body, Dow said.
"Ruben is charged with accessory after the fact to murder," Dow said. "The allegation against Ruben is that he helped to conceal Kristin's body after the murder was committed."
The body has still yet to be recovered, but Dow said investigators believe they know where Kristin Smart's body was buried, but the district attorney wouldn't go into specifics.
"I can't tell you today specifically what the evidence is," said Dow. "As the Sheriff (Ian Parkinson) said yesterday, there are seals on the search warrants they were executing yesterday, and we don't want to do anything that would jeopardize the fair process."
Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested Tuesday and booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail. Paul Flores was long considered to be the prime suspect in her disappearance and is believed to be the last person to see Smart alive.
Paul Flores is being held without bail. Ruben Flores has bail set at $250,000 but Deputy District Attorney Chris Peurvrelle, who was named lead prosecutor in the case, indicated the DA's office would be seeking an increased bail amount.
Dow confirmed that new evidence that was recovered during searches at property owned by the Flores family. He would not give specific details about the evidence due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, but described the evidence as "significant." Dow also confirmed that electronic communication was collected as evidence in the case.
"Significant new information has come in to the Sheriff's Office that we have reviewed over the last two years, and some important information just a month ago," said Dow. "We've got physical evidence. We have witness statements, things in our view, in the totality, have brought us to the point where we believe we can go forward and prosecute Mr. Flores in the murder of Kristin Smart."
The District Attorney's office will move forward with felony murder charges, despite investigators not yet having recovered Smart's body.
"No-body homicides are obviously complicated and difficult," said Dow. "But we don't make a decision to file unless we believe we can prove the case. Our team of exceptional professionals, and very experienced prosecutors and investigators, are going to do everything that we can to solve this case successfully and hold Mr. Flores accountable for the murder of Kristin Smart."
The DA's office has successfully prosecuted murder cases without a body in the past, Dow said.
Additionally, Dow added a new wrinkle to the investigation during Wednesday's news conference. The district attorney announced for the first time that there is evidence of additional victims of sexual assault perpetrated by Paul Flores in Southern California.
"We do have evidence in this case that leads us to conclude that there very well may be additional victims in the Southern California area," Dow said. "He was known to frequent bars in the San Pedro area and in Los Angeles County, and so we would ask anybody that may have had an experience him, that they have questions about, to reach out and contact law enforcement."
Dow asked any potential victims to come forward to seek assistance and also help in the prosecution of Paul Flores in the murder case.
"We are putting the defendant on notice that evidence 1108 (California Evidence Code), which is evidence of other sexual crimes may be used against him," said Dow. We intend to use evidence of other sexual crimes in this prosecution to prove the facts necessary for the attempted rape in this case. We do believe that we have evidence that we do believe there are other people that are not yet identified that have had some kind of other kind of a criminal act perpetrated on them by Mr. Flores."