Kristin Smart case: Judge reduces bail for father accused of helping son hide body

The father was charged as an accessory after the fact for allegedly hiding Smart's body

A judge on Wednesday reduced bail for the father accused of helping his son hide the body of college student Kristin Smart, who disappeared in California nearly 25 years ago.

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen set bail at $50,000 for the father, Ruben Flores, 80, who was charged as an accessory after the fact for allegedly hiding Smart's body. He has pleaded not guilty to accessory after murder in her death.

Earlier this week, the judge indicated he would reduce bail from $250,000 to an amount Flores -- who faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted -- could afford. He cited health problems and how Flores could serve that time while awaiting trial.

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A Judge reduced bail Wednesday for Ruben Flores, 80, who has pleaded not guilty to accessory after murder in Kristin Smart's death

A Judge reduced bail Wednesday for Ruben Flores, 80, who has pleaded not guilty to accessory after murder in Kristin Smart's death ((San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office, FBI via AP))

"Setting bail in something more than he can afford is a detention under the law," the judge said.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle argued the bail was affordable and should remain at $250,000, according to court documents. The conditions of his release include surrendering his passport, remaining in San Luis Obispo County, and agreeing to wear an electronic monitor.

Smart went missing in 1996 and Ruben's son, Paul Flores, 44, was charged last week with first-degree murder after he allegedly attempted to rape Smart in his dorm room after an off-campus party at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, about 180 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. She was 19 at the time. 

The younger Flores has pleaded not guilty to murder and is being held without bail. He was the last person seen with Smart on May 25, 1996, at Cal Poly, where they were both freshmen, reports said. 

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The father and son were arrested last week after California investigators found "biological evidence" indicating Smart was once buried under Ruben Flores’ deck at his home in Arroyo Grande, about 15 miles from campus.

San Luis Obispo County prosecutors added there was "damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved," according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Both men deny any involvement in her disappearance. Smart's body has never been found.

The arrests last week followed significant developments in the case in recent years as new witnesses came forward, investigators monitored Paul Flores’ cellphone and text messages, and searches were conducted at separate homes where Flores, his father, mother, and sister live.

Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores’ attorney, dismissed the evidence, calling it "so minimal as to shock the conscience." He said it was nothing more than disturbed soil that had been dumped in a hole after being removed from the site where a nearby foundation was laid.

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Peuvrelle disagreed with that notion. 

"Due to the evidence gleaned from the excavation, it is reasonable to believe Ruben Flores currently knows the location of Kristin Smart’s remains," Peuvrelle said. "Should he be allowed bail, it is a virtual certainty that he would use his freedom to continue his attempts to help Paul Flores thwart prosecution in this case and continue to hide her remains."

Fox News' Brie Stimson, Frank Miles and the Associated Press contributed to this report