The father and son accused of murdering California college student Kristin Smart have come to court for the first time, but will not file their pleas until next week.
Paul Flores, 44, is charged with first-degree murder for the murder that allegedly took place when he attempted to rape a 19-year-old Smart in his dormitory at Cal Poly University after an off-campus party in 1996.
His father, Ruben Flores, 80, is accused of helping his son hide Smart’s body, which has still not been found.
The brief trial in the San Luis Obispo Superior Court was streamed live with the father and son, who were arrested Tuesday after years of investigation, and appeared separately on video from the county jail.
Paul Flores, who wore a blue jacket, white shirt and tie, is being held without bail. His father, who was in orange jail time, was held on $ 250,000 bail.
Paul (left) and Ruben Flores (right), the father and son accused of the murder of California college student Kristin Smart, came to court for the first time on Thursday, but will not file their plea until next week.
Kristin Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996, along with Flores returning to her dorm at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party.
A Smart family spokesperson said they were not surprised that the arraignment was delayed.
After nearly 25 years of waiting, today’s delay in the indictment process was not unexpected or surprising. Make no mistake, we have begun the final quest to bring justice to Kristin, ”the family said.
“We know we are in good hands with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney office, and we will wait patiently for the trial to begin.”
Their arrests this week followed significant developments in the case in recent years, as new witnesses came forward, investigators were monitoring Paul Flores’s cell phone and text messages, and searches were conducted in separate homes where Flores, his father , mother and sister live.
A search last month at Ruben Flores’ home, 21 miles south of the campus in the community of Arroyo Grande, using ground-penetrating radar and corpse dogs, uncovered evidence linked to Smart’s death, authorities said.
They did not disclose what had been found, but were dug in the backyard on Tuesday after their arrests.
Smart’s body, officially declared dead in 2002, has never been found.
Authorities said they think they know where she was buried, but they have not yet found her remains or made the location public.
Despite being a suspect from day one, investigators say they never had enough evidence to charge Paul Flores with 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 Tuesday in connection with Kristin Smart’s disappearance in 1996
Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996, with Flores 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 freshman, had offered to take her home.
District Attorney Dan Dow revealed Wednesday that investigators believe Flores killed Smart in his dormitory over Memorial Day weekend, when many students had left 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 that his client is “absolutely innocent.”
The case dates back to May 25, 1996, when Smart was last seen returning to her dorm on the campus of Cal Poly University at approximately 2 a.m. after an off-campus party.
A then 19-year-old Flores, who was a fellow freshman at the school, had offered to take her home from the party.
Smart was not reported missing to Cal Poly police until three days after she was last seen.
Her roommate said at the time that police were initially reluctant to report missing persons because it was Memorial Day weekend and she may have left campus.
As the last person to see Smart alive, Flores was under suspicion from the start.
Investigators, who began a renewed search on his father’s property (above) in nearby Arroyo Grande on Tuesday, believe they know where the body was buried but have not yet found it or have made the location public.
Smart’s family (above in an undated photo) released a statement shortly after the arrests calling it a “ bittersweet day, ” but turned down Paul and Ruben Flores for allegedly hiding “ this terrible secret ” for decades. .
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office has been in charge of the investigation for a month after Smart disappeared.
During the investigation, four different search dogs trained to pick up the scent of human remains led police to Flores’ dormitory. No evidence has ever been found in Flores’s room.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002.
Several search efforts have been undertaken over the years, including excavating three different hillside sites 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 disappeared. He has never been charged with her disappearance
At the time, a researcher said that a clue strongly suggested that her remains could be buried near a large concrete letter ‘P’, the school’s landmark, but the search ended without a trace of Smart’s remains.
The case took off in recent years after Parkinson, who became a sheriff in 2011, ordered a thorough review of the evidence and hired a full-time cold case detective.
Flores then went from ‘person of interest’ to ‘suspect’ to ‘prime suspect,’ Parkinson said.
The sheriff revealed that a new witness had emerged in 2019 and, coupled with new evidence, they were able to obtain a warrant to intercept and monitor Flores’ phone and text messages.
Other orders allowed investigators to conduct searches of Flores’s home, along with those of his mother, father and sister, in February and April last year, uncovering additional evidence.
In total, Parkinson’s said they served more than 40 search warrants in 16 locations over the years, collected nearly 200 new pieces of evidence, and used modern DNA techniques to test more than three dozen older pieces of evidence.
He said there was so much evidence that it would fill three terabytes in a computer’s hard drive.
Last month, agents carried out another search warrant at the Flores family home using ground-penetrating radar equipment and cadaveric dogs.
Investigators uncovered more evidence that resulted in the charges against Paul and Ruben Flores this week.
Flores was silent during the decades-long investigation.
He has previously invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions before a grand jury and in a statement for a lawsuit filed against him in connection with the investigation.
The Smart family filed a $ 40 million lawsuit against Flores in 1996, adding the university for allegedly not protecting their daughter. It is awaiting the outcome of a criminal case.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002, but her body has never been found
Researchers have long said that Flores was the last person to see Smart alive. He told police at the time that he walked back from the party with Smart, but broke up a block from her dorm with her.