The parents of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart filed a lawsuit on April 22 against three individuals, including an Arroyo Grande man accused by prosecutors of hiding their daughter’s body and moving the remains following a search of his residence in 2020.
In the lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, Stan and Denise Smart, of Stockton, say Ruben Flores, 80, initially buried their daughter’s body near his residence in the 700 block of White Court and relocated her remains following a search of the home by Sheriff’s Office investigators in February 2020.
Additionally, the Smart family alleges that two unnamed individuals “acted in complicity and in concert” with Flores in moving their daughter’s body to an unknown location in the county. As a result, they were denied an opportunity to “obtain closure and peace of mind.”
“The remains of a loved one, especially under the conditions of the disappearance and death of Kristin Smart, are precious to the family members of those deceased persons,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorney James Murphy on behalf of the Smart family. The suit notes that the two unidentified defendants “committed acts of ... viciousness, depravity and cruelty," which will be revealed at a later time.
Ruben Flores, 80, of Arroyo Grande left jail after Judge Craig Van Rooyen lowered his bail from $250,000 to $50,000 on Wednesday. Terms of release require Ruben Flores to wear an electronic ankle monitor, give up his passport and stay within San Luis Obispo County.
As a result, the Smart family alleges severe emotional distress spanning nearly 25 years and seeks compensation for damages, including punitive and exemplary damages, in an amount to be determined at trial, according to the lawsuit. It adds that they seek additional damages “to make an example of and to punish defendant.” The family cited the defendants' conduct as a substantial factor in their emotional distress.
Kristin Smart was last seen May 25, 1996, and was declared legally dead in 2002. She is believed to have been last seen with Ruben Flores’ son, 44-year-old Paul Flores, of San Pedro, who allegedly killed her during a sexual assault in his Cal Poly dorm room.
On Feb. 5, 2020, sheriff’s officials executed a search warrant on Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home and four days later, on Feb. 9, 2020, Flores and the two unnamed individuals worked through the night and under cover of darkness to remove Kristin Smart’s body from under the lattice enclosure below the deck of his home, the suit contends.
The effort was “an attempt to cover up the complicity of Paul Flores” in her sexual assault and murder, according to the suit, which adds that the removal of Smart's body was to ensure the remains would not be found if another search warrant was executed.
More than a year later, on March 15, Sheriff’s Office investigators executed another search warrant at the White Court residence, this time with cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar.
Investigators focused on an area enclosed by latticework under the deck, where dirt had been removed from a hole, which was photographed and documented by law enforcement, according to the lawsuit.
Sheriff’s officials returned last week, on April 13, to serve an additional sealed search warrant that lasted for two days on the White Court home and involved the use of power tools. No new information was released as a result of the search warrants.
Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested on that same day and charged with murder and accessory to murder after the fact, respectively, on April 14. Both men pleaded not guilty on April 19.
Ruben Flores was released from jail April 21 on $50,000 bail. Paul Flores remains in jail without a bail amount. Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores' attorney, did not respond to an email seeking comment on April 22.
“Had Kristin’s remains not been hidden, re-hidden and then moved yet again, it is reasonably likely plaintiffs could have been reunited with the remains of their daughter and would have been permitted the opportunity to conduct a burial service at which their daughter could be laid to rest in a place of honor and dignity,” according to the lawsuit, “as opposed to the present circumstances where their daughter’s body was discarded like human garbage.”
The lawsuit is scheduled for a case management conference at 9 a.m. on Aug. 25 in Department 2 of Superior Court.
In the criminal case, both Paul and Ruben Flores are scheduled to reappear for preliminary hearing motions at 1:30 p.m. on May 17 and again at 1:30 p.m. on June 21 in Superior Court.