Recently released court documents detail a one-time immunity deal previously offered to Paul Flores’ sister, Ermelinda Thomas.
Paul is charged with murder in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. His father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory, accused of helping cover up the crime.
In documents filed June 18, 2021, Thomas’ attorney, Guy Galambos, filed a motion of notice in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court to quash a subpoena for Thomas’ testimony during the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben’s case that July.
The documents include information about a January 2020 appearance from a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s detective at Thomas’ Washington home.
They state the detective was requesting an interview from Thomas while also giving her two letters: one urging her cooperation and another offering immunity from San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow in exchange for her cooperation.
Thomas’ attorney says she “accepted the letters, but did not give any statements” and later goes on to say that Thomas should not have to testify because she “does not have any material testimony to provide during any proceedings in this case” and also states she does not qualify as a “material witness.”
A month later, Thomas’ home was reportedly one of four Flores family homes searched by authorities.
Galambos says the letters referred to several crimes that Thomas may have committed, “including being a possible accessory after the fact, or destruction of evidence, or even mishandling human remains.”
Galambos’ argument, in part, states that when trying to secure Thomas as a witness, the DA’s Office “fails to state which defendant’s actions or statements she witnessed and it fails to identify what actions and statements she witnessed. Ms. Thomas informs me that she was never a witness to any crime, nor did she hear the defendants speak about any crimes.”
Thomas did not testify during the preliminary hearing nor has she been called yet as a witness during fer father and brother’s murder trial currently underway in Salinas.
The letter sent to Thomas by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detective Clint Cole, which was part of the documents Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe has allowed to be released, explains that Cole has been working on the Kristin Smart case for more than two years. He tells Thomas that he has not attempted to contact her or anyone else from her family previously “because it was obvious to me that former detectives harassed your family in the past and I do not operate that way.”
He states, “When I started reviewing this case, I kept an open mind and assumed that Paul Flores was not involved in Kristin’s disappearance. I now know for sure he is, and Kristin is dead, and so do you.”
Cole states things have changed drastically due to advances in DNA technology, adding that evidence has been re-examined and vehicles belonging to Thomas and her family have been forensically searched.
“I know Paul’s Attorney Mel had many plea agreement talks with the District Attorney’s Office and know without a doubt that Paul Flores knows what happened to Kristin Smart and where her body is. When I say I know Paul’s involved, his own words saying so are one of the things I know that prove it. I can show you a video of Paul admitting he knows what happened to Kristin Smart,” his letter states.
Cole also states, “this could have very well been an accident that night” while telling Thomas he believes she knows what happened and had some involvement “by being a good sister.”
Cole offers Thomas full immunity in exchange for her telling the truth about what she knows. “If you do not want to take this offer now it will not be offered to you again and things will be used against you.”
He goes on to say in the letter that is not dated but referenced by Galambos that Paul will soon be in a position of needing to tell law enforcement his story and that the case “will be solved soon.”
“You can be the one who is responsible for ending this nightmare for everyone and move on with your life. Until she (Kristin) is found, this case will never go away you and your family will never have any peace; there will always be an open and active investigation.”
The letter from the DA’s Office has similar wording about the immunity deal.
Nothing in this portion of the documents states Thomas accepted the offer of immunity or provided any information to authorities.
Paul and Ruben were arrested and charged in connection with Kristin’s death in April 2021.
Their trial is expected to last into at least October.
If convicted, Paul, who has remained in custody since his arrested, faces a sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison. Ruben faces a maximum of three years in jail.
More than 3,000 pages of documents have been released as part of the case. Many include court filings and other evidence submitted by both sides as part of various motions.