Prosecutor: Missing student killed during 1996 rape attempt

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FILE - In this March 16, 2021, file photo, San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office personnel dig in an area in the backyard of the home of Ruben Flores, in Arroyo Grande, Calif. Flores is the father of Paul Flores, who remains the prime suspect in the disappearance of Kristin Smart in 1996. The San Luis Obispo County sheriff plans a major announcement Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in the nearly 25-year mystery of the disappearance of Smart. (AP Photo/Daniel Dreifuss, File)

LOS ANGELES – The suspect in the 1996 disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart killed her while trying rape her in his dorm room and his father helped hide the body, the San Luis Obispo County district attorney said Wednesday.

District Attorney Dan Dow said prosecutors would seek to prove Paul Flores tried to sexually assault Smart by showing prior sex acts he engaged in and crimes they believe he committed in more recent years.

Prosecutors filed a first-degree murder charge against Paul Flores, 44, and an accessory after murder charge against his father, Ruben Flores, 80, for helping him conceal Smart’s body, which has never been found.

The two were arrested Tuesday after years of investigation and a search last month using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs at the elder Flores' home that led to evidence connected to Smart’s death, authorities said. They didn't revealed what was found.

Smart, 19, of Stockton, was last seen May 25, 1996, with Flores while returning to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party. She was inebriated at the time, and Flores, a fellow freshman, had offered to walk her home.

Dow revealed that investigators think Flores killed Smart in his dorm room during the Memorial Day weekend when many students had left the campus.

Investigators, who launched a renewed search Tuesday at his father’s property in nearby Arroyo Grande, believe they know where the body was buried but have not yet found it or disclosed the location.

Paul and Ruben Flores are in jail and scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.