A murder trial in California digs at the question of how much physical evidence is needed to prove a murder occurred despite many years and no body.
SALINAS, Calif. (CN) — More than a quarter of a century since Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart disappeared, California prosecutors face two juries in a courtroom in the small Monterey County city of Salinas to answer how much evidence is needed to prove a murder occurred .
Their job is to prove to a jury that Paul Flores, now 45, was responsible for killing Smart — a California Polytechnic University student missing since 1996 — and, to another jury, that his father, Ruben Flores, now 81, helped him hide Smart’s body. The investigation in San Luis Obispo County has never gone completely cold, given a complaint filed by District Attorney Dan Dow led to the arrest of the Floreses. Dow believes Paul Flores killed Smart while trying to rape her after an off-campus fraternity party. Smart has not been seen since the party despite extensive searches conducted throughout the county between 1996 and 2007.
The case has spanned 26 years, during which time local law enforcement worked with the FBI to try to collect evidence or a confession from Flores, using informants and wiretapping. Smart’s disappearance in state legislation, including the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act, passed unanimously and signed into law by then-Governor Pete Wilson. It requires all publicly funded educational institutions in California to have security services make agreements with local police departments regarding cases possibly involving violence against students.
Until now, little physical evidence in the case has been released to the public — a fact on which Flores’ defense attorney Robert Sanger has focused. But prosecutors say they will release new evidence and witnesses in a