California father and son charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance of 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart pleaded not guilty Monday, according to reports.

Paul Flores, 44, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing that authorities said happened as he tried to rape Smart in his dorm room after an off-campus party at California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo, 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Witnesses said Smart was intoxicated and Flores had said he would walk her home.

Ruben Flores, 80, who has denied helping to hide the young woman’s body, pleaded not guilty to a charge that he was an accessory after murder.

Paul Flores was held without bail.


Smart’s family released a statement, which said in part: "Our family strongly opposes any bail being offered to Paul Flores. Given the charges filed against him that he murdered our daughter, sought and received help from his father, Ruben, and then the two collaborated to hide her and deny any knowledge of their actions for the next 25 years is simply reprehensible. This is not how mature, responsible adults act!"

Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, had filed a motion noting his client "does not pose a risk to public safety and is not a flight risk."

He said to jail Paul Flores "will impact his ability to participate in his defense and make informed decisions regarding his case."

"Mr. Flores has been subjected to a substantial amount of pre-arrest publicity and accusations over the last 25 years," Sanger wrote. "He and his family have also been subject to numerous interrogations and highly publicized searches of their premises and property. Nevertheless, Mr. Flores has remained in the Southern California community."

Paul Flores, 44, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing. Ruben Flores, 80, pleaded not guilty to a charge that he was an accessory after murder. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office via AP)

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen said he would release the father on bail he could afford, which will be determined at a later hearing in the court.

The arrests last week followed significant developments in the case in recent years as new witnesses came forward, investigators monitored Paul Flores’ cellphone and text messages, and searches were conducted at separate homes where Flores, his father, mother and sister live.

A search at Ruben Flores’ home 13 miles south of campus in Arroyo Grande using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs discovered evidence connected to Smart’s death, authorities said.

They didn’t reveal what was found but were seen digging in the backyard April 13 following the arrests.


Defense lawyers, however, questioned the value of the evidence disclosed to them so far in the case.

"The evidence is so minimal as to shock the conscience," said attorney Harold Mesick, who represents Ruben Flores.

Prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle countered that investigators had found substantial new evidence since a series of searches last year that ultimately led to the arrests.

"Counsel said, ‘There was very little new evidence,’" Peuvrelle said, referring to Sanger. "Well then he must not have read the same warrant that I have. There is substantial new evidence."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.