A San Luis Obispo County judge Wednesday refused to allow prosecutors to add two rape charges from Los Angeles to the murder case against Paul Flores in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart.
The move by Judge Craig B. Van Rooyen comes despite a prosecutor telling the court, “Paul Flores has raped so many women, it’s hard to keep track,” as he argued for the judge to allow the San Luis Obispo County district attorney to add rape charges from 2011 and 2017 involving two women in Los Angeles.
The prosecutor argued there was a nexus to the murder charge against Flores. They have said he killed Smart, a 19-year-old fellow student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, during the commission of a rape or attempted rape in his dormitory the night she vanished 25 years ago.
According to San Luis Obispo County Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Peuvrelle, Flores had a history of raping women who were either drunk or intoxicated. On the night Smart disappeared, Flores tried to force himself on women at the party they both attended, authorities have said.
But Van Rooyen said there is no evidence of a sex crime in the charged murder and the evidence from the Los Angeles incidents cannot be used as a substitute.
Robert Sanger, the criminal defense attorney defending Flores, said the attempt at the new charges amounted to a publicity stunt.
During the hearing, prosecutors said they had homemade videos of Flores with women who appeared intoxicated during sex and recovered prescription drugs that could be used in the commission of date rape. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office investigators also uncovered evidence of videos on Flores’ hard drives depicting rape and rape of intoxicated women along with search engine data of the subject matter.
The judge also pushed back the preliminary hearing from July 20 to Aug. 2.
A Los Angeles Police Department captain earlier this week said the two attacks occurred in the San Pedro area where Flores lived. In a court filing, Los Angeles Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s office opted to allow the San Luis Obispo County prosecutor to charge the cases, citing its Sheriff’s Office’s extensive investigation into Flores. Those prosecutors have also said there are two additional alleged sexual assaults in 2007 and 2008 they are reviewing.
It was unclear if the prosecutors will appeal the ruling or if L.A. prosecutors would now file the charges.
Apart from Paul Flores, his 80-year-old father, Ruben Flores, is charged with accessory after the fact in Smart’s killing and is accused of concealing her body.
The preliminary hearing is expected to reveal what prosecutors think happened to Smart. After the arrest of son and father, evidence was retrieved from below the deck of the father’s home in Arroyo Grande, prosecutors have indicated.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office officials dig under a deck at the home of Ruben Flores, the father of Paul Flores.
(Daniel Dreifuss / Associated Press)
Smart vanished on Memorial Day weekend in 1996. She was last seen walking with Paul Flores, a classmate, back to her room after a party. Flores was long suspected in Smart’s disappearance, but he remained free because of insufficient evidence tying him to any crime.
For decades, Flores was dogged by his ties to the Smart case. He moved to Los Angeles County’s South Bay but detectives continued to pursue him, tapping his phones, seizing his computers and digging up his parents’ yards.
Redondo Beach police previously presented a rape case against Flores to Los Angeles County prosecutors, who ultimately declined to file charges due to a lack of evidence. The victim in that case did not know Flores’ identity when she fled his home after the alleged attack. But police uploaded a DNA profile taken as evidence into a law enforcement database, and a few years later, it matched a name: Paul Flores.
Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.