NEW YORK -- After an agonizing 20 months, on Wednesday, for the first time, family members came face to face with the man charged with murdering their loved one.
Queens prosecutors say for months the clues pointed to Destini Smothers' former boyfriend, Kareem Flake.
A sanitation worker found her remains in the trunk of a car on March 10, 2021.
An April 9 of this year, police arrested Flake in Florida. He was extradited back to New York and indicted on Wednesday.
CBS2's Lisa Rozner spoke with Smothers' relatives, who said they are a step closer to justice.
"It feel fresh today. It feel like we just found out that she was murdered today. It's just the beginning," mother Loretta "Simone" King said.
Wearing purple for domestic violence awareness, family and friends clutched onto photos of Smothers in Queens Criminal Court for a moment they waited almost two years for -- seeing Flake in handcuffs. He was Smothers' boyfriend and the father of their two sons, ages 4 and 11.
Flake is accused of murdering Smothers in November 2020 and abandoning her body in the trunk of a car in South Jamaica.
"No one deserved to lose their life, not like that," family friend Karen Williams said.
"It's important to be here because we're telling her story. We're her support. We are her voice. She heard it. Her hurt was our hurt. We are her voice," cousin Dominique Washington added.
Flake was extradited Wednesday from Florida, where he was arrested for domestic battery against a different woman.
Later in the afternoon in court, he appeared wearing a red hoodie and black pants and pleaded not guilty to charges of murder in the second degree, kidnapping, criminal possession of a weapon, and tampering with evidence.
Flake showed no emotion as Smothers' mother wept while hearing the Queens district attorney say Smothers was discovered with the same shirt, pants and boots she was last seen wearing.
CBS2 was there almost two years ago when family went searching for the 26-year-old. She had been living in the Albany area, but was last seen in November 2020 leaving a Woodside bowling alley with Flake, where she celebrated her birthday with friends.
He allegedly told family members they got into an argument on the Grand Central Parkway in Astoria and she jumped out of the car.
Months later, in March of last year, her decomposed body was found in the trunk of that car.
On Wednesday, the DA revealed the car had seat covers with Smothers blood and several cleaning agents like peroxide.
"It brought tears to my eyes. She just was special. She had a good heart," father Tony Smothers said.
The DA said Flake even told detectives Wednesday morning that in two weeks he would have been in California. The judge remanded him without bail.
"I'm happy he's not going to see the light of day again and this won't happen to nobody else's child with him on the streets," cousin Tanasha Battle said.
"We found out things we didn't know, you know, and the fight is not over yet. We not going to stop until justice is served," cousin Johann Daily said.
The DA said Flake also told investigators Wednesday morning in sum and substance, "Let's get this show on the road. I'm tired of looking over my shoulder."
If convicted, Flake faces 25 years to life in prison.
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