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UPDATE: Kristin Smart Murder Suspect Paul Flores, Father Make First Court Appearance

LOS ANGELES (AP/CBS SF) — Paul Flores, the former San Luis Obispo college student charged with murder in the 1996 disappearance of classmate Kristin Smart, and his alleged accomplice father made their first virtual court appearance on Thursday.

Neither man entered a plea during the brief appearance via Zoom in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Paul Flores virtual court appearance
Paul Flores virtual court appearance (CBS)

The proceeding was livestreamed with the father and son appearing separately by video from the county jail. The judge postponed their arraignments and bail hearings until Monday afternoon.

Paul Flores, 44, was charged earlier this week with first-degree murder for the killing that allegedly happened as he tried to rape then 19-year-old Stockton native Smart in his dorm room at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party on May 25, 1996.

Paul Flores Ruben Flores
(l-r) Paul Flores, Ruben Flores (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office)

Witnesses said Smart was intoxicated and Flores, a fellow freshman, offered to walk her home.

His father, 80-year-old Ruben Flores, has been charged as an accessory after the murder.  The two men were arrested on Tuesday in connection with Smart's death and disappearance.

After the brief virtual court appearance, the Smart family issued a statement saying they will remain patient as the case proceeds.

"After nearly 25 years of waiting, today's delay in the arraignment process was not unexpected or surprising," the statement read. "Make no mistake, we have begun the final quest to bring justice for Kristin."

Paul Flores, seen wearing a blue suit jacket, white shirt and necktie, is being held without bail. His father, clad in orange jail scrubs, was held on $250,000 bail.

According to San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow, Flores killed Smart in his dorm room. Investigators, who launched a renewed search Tuesday at his father's property in nearby Arroyo Grande, believe they know where the body was buried.

Dow urged the public to come forward with any information they may have about the killing or other crimes Paul Flores may have committed.

In more recent years, Paul Flores frequented bars around his home in the Los Angeles area of San Pedro and may have committed other sexual assaults, Dow said.

Flores has been under suspicion from the earliest days of Smart's disappearance. He has gone from being a "person of interest" to a "suspect" to "the prime suspect" — and, now, defendant.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said the arrests came after a search of the elder Flores' home last month using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs that turned up new evidence linked to Smart's killing.

"Until we return Kristin to (her family) this is not over," Parkinson said.

Parkinson likened the case to a puzzle where missing pieces are located, leading to new evidence and locations to search that then revealed other information.

"It's a very slow process to find each of those little pieces," he 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. So much evidence was compiled that it would fill three terabytes on a computer hard drive, he said.

Paul Flores has remained mum through the years, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions before a grand jury and in a deposition for the lawsuit brought against him.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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