The father and son charged in the killing of California college student Kristin Smart have faced court for the first time but will not enter their pleas until next week.
Paul Flores, 44, is charged with first-degree murder for the killing that allegedly happened as he tried to rape a 19-year-old Smart in his dorm room at Cal Poly University after an off-campus party in 1996.
His father, Ruben Flores, 80, is charged with helping his son conceal Smart’s body, which still has not been found.
The brief proceeding in San Luis Obispo Superior Court was livestreamed with the father and son, who were arrested on Tuesday after years of investigation, appearing separately by video from the county jail.
Paul Flores, who was wearing a blue suit jacket, white shirt and necktie, is being held without bail. His father, who was in orange jail scrubs, was held on $250,000 bail.
Paul (left) and Ruben Flores (right), the father and son charged in the killing of California college student Kristin Smart, faced court for the first time on Thursday but will not enter their pleas until next week.
Kristin Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996, with Flores while returning to her dorm at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party
A spokesperson for the Smart family said they were not surprised the arraignment was delayed.
‘After nearly 25 years of waiting, today’s delay in the arraignment process was not unexpected or surprising. Make no mistake, we have begun the final quest to bring justice for Kristin,’ the family said.
‘We know we are in good hands with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office, and we will wait patiently for the process to commence.’
Their arrests this week followed significant developments in the case in recent years as new witnesses came forward, investigators monitored Paul Flores’ cell phone and text messages and searches were conducted at separate homes where Flores, his father, mother and sister live.
A search last month at Ruben Flores’ home 13 miles south of campus in the community of Arroyo Grande using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs discovered evidence connected to Smart’s death, authorities said.
They did not disclose what was found but were seen digging in the backyard on Tuesday following their arrests.
The body of Smart, who was officially declared dead in 2002, has never been found.
Authorities said they believe they know where she was buried but have not yet found her remains or publicly disclosed the location.
Despite being a suspect from day one, investigators say they never had enough evidence to charge Paul Flores over Kristin Smart’s disappearance until Tuesday when he was taken into custody (above) on suspicion of murdering the 19-year-old
Paul Flores, 44, and his father, Ruben Flores, 80, were arrested on Tuesday in connection with Kristin Smart’s 1996 disappearance
Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996, with Flores while returning to her dorm at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party.
She was drunk at the time, and Flores, who was a fellow freshman, had offered to walk her home.
District Attorney Dan Dow revealed on Wednesday that investigators think Flores killed Smart in his dorm room during the Memorial Day weekend when many students had left the campus.
A lawyer for Paul Flores has declined to comment on the arrest or charges. Harold Mesick, a lawyer for Ruben Flores, told the Los Angeles Times his client is ‘absolutely innocent.’
The case dates back to May 25, 1996 when Smart was last seen returning to her dorm at the Cal Poly University campus at about 2am after an off-campus party.
A then-19-year-old Flores, who was a fellow freshman at the school, had offered to walk her home from the party.
Smart was not reported missing to the Cal Poly Police Department until three days after she was last seen.
Her dorm mate at the time said police were initially reluctant to take a missing persons report because it was Memorial Day weekend and she might have left the campus.
As the last person to see Smart alive, Flores was under suspicion from the start.
Investigators, who launched a renewed search on Tuesday at his father’s property (above) in nearby Arroyo Grande, believe they know where the body was buried but have not yet found it or publicly disclosed the location
Smart’s family (above in an undated photo) issued a statement shortly after the arrests calling it a ‘bittersweet day’ but slammed Paul and Ruben Flores for allegedly hiding ‘this horrible secret’ for decades
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office has been in charge of the investigation since a month after Smart vanished.
During the investigation, four different search dogs trained to pick up the smell of human remains led police to Flores’ dorm room. No evidence was ever found in Flores’ room.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002.
Various search efforts have been carried out over the years, including the excavation of three different hillside locations near the campus in 2016.
The younger Flores, who has long been a suspect in Smart’s 1996 disappearance, was a former classmate and the last known person to see Smart the night she vanished. He has never been charged over her disappearance
At the time, an investigator said a lead strongly suggested her remains might be buried near a large concrete letter ‘P’ that is the school’s landmark but the search ended with no trace of Smart’s remains.
The case picked up steam in the past few years after Parkinson, who became sheriff in 2011, ordered a thorough review of the evidence and hired a fulltime cold case detective.
Flores then went from being a ‘person of interest’ to a ‘suspect’ to ‘the prime suspect’, Parkinson said.
The sheriff revealed a new witness came forward in 2019 and, coupled with new evidence, they were able to get a warrant to intercept and monitor Flores’ phone and text messages.
Other warrants enabled investigators to conduct searches on Flores’ home, along with those of his mother, father and sister, in February and April last year, which turned up additional evidence.
In total, Parkinson said they served over 40 search warrants at 16 locations over the years, collected nearly 200 new items of evidence and used modern DNA techniques to test more than three dozen older pieces of evidence.
He said so much evidence was compiled that it would fill three terabytes on a computer hard drive.
Just last month, officers conducted yet another search warrant at the Flores’ family home using ground penetrating radar equipment and cadaver dogs.
Investigators discovered more evidence that resulted in the charges being brought against Paul and Ruben Flores this week.
Flores has remained silent over the decades-long investigation.
He has previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions before a grand jury and in a deposition for a lawsuit that was brought against him in relation to the investigation.
The Smart family filed the $40 million lawsuit in 1996 against Flores and added the the university for allegedly not protecting their daughter. It is pending awaiting a criminal case outcome.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002 but her body has never been found
Investigators have long said that Flores was the last person to see Smart alive. He told police at the time that he walked Smart back from the party but parted ways with her about a block from her dorm