THE man accused of murdering Kristin Smart during an attempted rape at a California college in 1996 is due to make his first appearance in court today.
Paul Flores, a former of classmate of Smart's, will be arraigned on a first degree murder charge at San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Thursday, alongside his father, Ruben Flores, who has been charged as an accessory.
During a press conference on Wednesday, prosecutors said Paul Flores, 44, killed Kristin Smart during an attempted rape on Memorial Day weekend in 1996, on the campus of California Polytechnic State University.
Flores was the last person to see her alive, having offered to walk her back to her dorm after she was found passed out on the ground outside of an off-campus frat party.
Smart never made it home that night was reported missing three days later.
Investigators have not yet said how or where they believe Paul Flores carried out the killing, but said the suspect's "dorm room is a crime scene".
They also accused his father, Ruben Flores, of helping his son to dispose of Smart's remains and cover up her murder.
He has been charged with an accessory after murder and is being held in lieu of a $250,000 bond.
Both men were scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 am local time, however the proceedings have not yet begun.
Paul Flores is also currently being investigated for three separate sexual assault allegations, which were all recently filed with the LAPD.
The cases reportedly involve three separate victims on three separate dates. The department offered no further information.
The local DA's office will now decide if there's sufficient evidence to pursue charges in relation to each of the allegations, which may later be used as additional evidence in the Smart case, officials said.
In a press conference on Wednesday, San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow asked the public to come forward with any information they may have about Flores committing additional crimes, including "assaults or other acts."
Dow said investigators believe Flores may be responsible for another sexual assaults in the Los Angeles area, adding he often frequented bars near his home in San Pedro from 2005 up until his arrest.
“Evidence of other sexual crimes may be used,” Dow said. “We intend to use evidence of other sexual crimes to prove the [Smart case].
"If you've been a victim in another location, perhaps in San Pedro, we want you to come forward to law enforcement so that you can get assistance that you need and it may help us in this particular case as well."
The arrests of the father-son duo came just one month after the younger Flores was identified as the "prime suspect" in Smart's killing, and after cadaver dogs were seen searching Ruben Flores' home in Arroyo Grande.
While immediately considered a person of interest in the case, San Luis Obispo Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Paul Flores officially became a suspect in 2016 after unspecified evidence came to light.
His arrest, alongside his father, followed new evidence investigators acquired in the last two years, Parkinson told the media on Tuesday.
Parkinson said thanks to new witnesses coming forward, and numerous searches of several properties belonging to the Flores' family, investigators were able to uncover forensic and physical evidence tying the father-son duo to Smart's murder.
The Sheriff's office have also been surveying Paul Flores' phone calls and text messages for the last two years, which Parkinson said helped uncover some "helpful" evidence.
The major developments in the case over the last two years were partially credited to a podcast, called Your Own Backyard, which renewed interest in the case upon its release in 2019.
The podcast outlined dozens of accusations of groping, stalking, and sexual assault against Flores from a myriad of former classmates, colleagues and acquaintances.
During the investigation into Smart's disappearance, other students at Cal Poly described Flores as a loner, an outsider, and in some cases predatory.
His apparent unsettling behavior earned him the moniker 'Chester the Molester' among some students, for his alleged propensity for groping girls at parties.
Paul Flores has long protested his innocence, having been a person of interest in Smart's disappearance ever since she was reported missing.
Police spent hours with him every day for more than a week after Smart vanished, retracing his route home from the party with her that night.
At the time he was interviewed by police, Flores had a black eye and scratches on his knees.
He first told police he suffered the black eye during a basketball game days prior. However, investigators tracked down one of his teammates who swore he turned up to the game already sporting the shiner.
Flores, then also 19, initially agreed to take a polygraph test, but when pressed by police he reportedly kept stalling.
In June 1996, investigators with the District Attorney's Office finally picked up Flores and told him it was time to take the test.
Reports from the time say Flores "turned white" at the suggestion, and refused to take the test once inside a conference room at the Arroyo Grande police station.
Instead, Flores agreed to an interview, which lasted 90 minutes and was taped.
During that interview, investigators bluffed by telling Flores they knew he'd taken a shower the night of Smart's disappearance before going to bed - contrary to what he'd previously claimed.
Flores reportedly buckled, admitting he'd gone into the communal shower at around 5am, after becoming sick.
He also admitted to lying about how he got his black eye. Instead of basketball, Flores said he actually suffered the shiner after hitting his face on the steering wheel of his truck, as he was trying to repair it.
The reason for lying, Flores told police, was because he didn't want to "sound stupid".
Although the footage has never been released publicly, officials familiar with the tape said what was most striking about the interview was Flores' body language.
Under intense questioning, pointing out that Kristin's last known whereabouts were with him, Flores apparently pulled his arms into his t-shirt and lifted his legs up to his chest, as if assuming the fetal position.
While investigators thought the teen was about to confess, instead he called their bluff.
"If you're so smart," he told them, "then tell me where the body is."
Reacting to the arrests of Flores and his father on Tuesday, Smart's family called the moment "bittersweet".
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"It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family; we pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home," the family said in a written statement.
"While Kristin’s loving spirit will always live in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates."
They continued: "The knowledge that a father and son, despite our desperate pleas for help, could have withheld this horrible secret for nearly 25 years, denying us the chance to lay our daughter to rest, is an unrelenting and unforgiving pain.
"We now put our faith in the justice system and move forward, comforted in the knowledge that Kristin has been held in the hearts of so many and that she has not been forgotten."