The family of Kristin Smart lauded a California judge on Wednesday for upholding murder charges against Paul Flores and Ruben Flores in connection to the victim's disappearance and death.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Smart's family expressed their gratitude to "Kristin's supporters in San Luis Obispo and beyond."

"So many people have played such important roles over the last 25 years, and we [are] humbled by the amazing support and generosity we have received. We want to especially thank the District Attorney's Office for their relentless efforts," the family noted.

Kristin Smart's family said they always knew "that this was going to be a long, difficult, and emotional journey." But they noted that with the recent ruling, they "are now one step closer to justice for Kristin." 

"She - and all who have worked so hard toward this day - deserve nothing less," the family said.

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California Judge Rules to Move Forward in Kristin Smart Murder Case

The California judge overseeing the case of the 19-year-old student ruled on Wednesday to move forward to a trial in the case against Paul Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, saying that there is "sufficient" evidence."

Judge Craig van Rooyen's ruling followed a month and a half-long preliminary hearing which began on August 2. It included testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including former and current detectives, former friends and acquaintances of both suspects, soil experts, and cadaver dog handlers.

Kristin Smart's classmate Paul Flores is charged with the murder of the 19-year-old Cal Poly student, and he's being held without bail. His father is charged as an accessory to the crime and is currently out on bail. 

They were both arrested and charged in April, nearly 25 years after Smart's disappearance. The two men pleaded not guilty.

According to Van Rooyen, one of the most convincing pieces of evidence was how Paul Flores minimized his contact with the victim the night of the party and how he was well aware of Smart's level of intoxication.

Van Rooyen further noted that Paul Flores also lied about getting a black eye at the time of the victim's disappearance. The suspect initially said he got it while playing basketball, and then later, he said he got it while repairing a car stereo. 

Van Rooyen said Paul Flores' lies showed his "consciousness of guilt." The judge also tackled the recent excavations at Ruben Flores' Arroyo Grande home.

He noted that two dogs displayed a change of behavior while under the deck, and archaeologists and soil experts found an anomaly the size of a human body under the deck. He said the collected soil sample from the dig also tested positive for human blood.

Van Rooyen also pointed out how Ruben Flores was protective of the deck and seemed to know what was under it, leading to a strong suspicion that it was Smart's remains.

Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement that they will continue to support the family of Kristin Smart "as we work towards justice." 

Kristin Smart's Disappearance

Kristin Smart was 19 years old at the time of her disappearance. She was last seen on May 25, 1996, walking back to her dorm after an off-campus party. No remains were found after many years.

Smart was a freshman at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) at the time of her disappearance. Based on a timeline compiled by the New York Times, Kristin Smart left the party at around 2:00 a.m. with Paul Flores.

Paul Flores told investigators at the time that he only walked with Smart to his dorm, and they parted ways. Three days after she was last seen, a missing-person report was filed for Kristin Smart.

Police investigators noted that Flores was the last person to see Smart before she disappeared 25 years ago. Smart's family declared her legally dead in 2002.

Both Paul Flores and his father were scheduled to be arraigned on October 20.

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Written by: Joshua Summers

WATCH: 2 Men Arrested in 1996 Disappearance of Cal Poly Student Kristin Smart - From CBS News