A California father and son went to court Thursday, in connection with the 1996 disappearance and presumed death of Cal Poly student, Kristin Smart.
Fox News reports that Paul Flores, 44, and his father Ruben Flores, 80, appeared in virtual court Thursday morning. Both defendants declined to enter pleas for the charges against them, in connection with 19-year-old Smart’s death.
Ruben Flores was also arrested Tuesday morning at his Arroyo Grande residence, on a charge of “accessory after the fact of a felony” according to San Luis Obispo County jail records, AP reports. His bail has been set at $250,000.
According to jail records, bail has not yet been set for Paul Flores.
Due to the case’s high profile, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge allowed both defendants to obtain protective orders. The judge also extended the plea hearing until April 19, when the defendants are expected to enter their pleas.
“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,” a spokesperson for the Smart family said, according to MailOnline.
Smart disappeared on May 24, 1996, after attending an off-campus party near Cal Poly. She called her parents that night at around 8:00 p.m. and left a voicemail. It was the last time they heard from her.
Fellow student Paul Flores told authorities that he accompanied Smart back to the Muir Hall dorm after the party, where she lived. He claimed he then left and walked to his own dorm room at Santa Lucia Hall.
Flores had a black eye while speaking to investigators at the time. He explained it happened after playing basketball, but authorities were skeptical of his story. Flores later claimed he got the black eye while working on a truck. Eventually, he stopped talking to the investigators and obtained an attorney.
When authorities brought cadaver dogs to the campus, the dogs reportedly made their way to room #128 at the Santa Lucia Dorm, where Flores lived. Two dogs showed interest in a mattress on the left-hand side of the room, according to court documents, which was Flores’ side of the room.
According to CARDA dog handler, Adela Morris, there “a strong possibility that a deceased body had been in that room.”
The Daily Beast reported in 2016 that the authorities once had the chance to arrest Flores on rape charges prior to Smart’s disappearance. Additional women reportedly came forward afterward and said Flores also sexually assaulted them.
One of the women said she contacted the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office and reported the incident, but Flores has never been convicted of any of the alleged assaults.
Frustrated and desperate for answers, Smart’s parents filed eventually filed a civil suit against Flores for “taking the body of Kristin Smart and secreting and/or destroying the body… in a hidden place in the County of San Luis Obispo.”
Flores’ family countersued the Smart family for emotional distress. A judge later ruled that the Smarts’ lawsuit could not proceed, due to the ongoing investigation, according to The Tribune.
In 2016, authorities found items of interest while excavating sites around the “P” hill, near the campus. Smart’s mother, however, said she knew that they wouldn’t find her daughter there.
“When they did the big dig, I had no anxiety,” Denise Smart said at the time. “I said she’s not there.”
The excavation didn’t provide any items of evidence that led to an arrest in the case and as Denise Smart predicted, searchers didn’t find her daughter.
In March of this year, authorities spent two days searching Ruben Flores’ home. They used cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar while digging in areas outside of the home. Investigators also removed an old Volkswagen from the property.
Video contains previous coverage on the case
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[Feature Photo: Police Handout; Handout]