Investigators Search Home of Prime Suspect's Father in Kristin Smart Case
By edhat staff
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's investigators are searching the Arroyo Grande home of the father of a "prime suspect" in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart.
On Monday detectives arrived at the home of Ruben Flores, the father of Paul Flores who was the last person seen with Smart on the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) campus and is considered the prime suspect by detectives.
Cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar are being used to search Ruben Flores' backyard and could potentially take two days to complete.
"The search warrant has been sealed. As a result, we are precluded by law from disclosing any further details regarding it. This is an active and on-going investigation. The Sheriff's Office will not be commenting any further and no additional information will be released at this time," said Sheriff's spokesperson Tony Cipolla in a press release.
Ground-penetrating radar on the scene of Ruben Flores' home (Credit: SLO Sheriff's Office)
Paul Flores was arrested in the Los Angeles area on February 11 on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“The arrest originated as a result of information obtained during our search warrants last year at the home of Paul Flores as part of the Kristin Smart investigation,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said in a previous statement.
Flores, 43, was released from the Los Angeles County Jail shortly after with a date scheduled to reappear in June. He has not been charged with any crime connected to Smart's disappearance.
In February 2020, the SLO Sheriff's Office served search warrants at four locations in California and Washington State followed by a search of Paul Flores' San Pedro home in April.
Smart was 19-years-old at the end of her freshman year of college on May 25, 1996, when she disappeared on the campus of Cal Poly. She is believed to have been abducted and killed, and was legally presumed dead on May 25, 2002. Smart's body has never been discovered and it remains an unsolved case.
In September 2019, Orcutt native Chris Lambert released a podcast series titled "Your Own Backyard" about the Smart case. The podcast was downloaded over a million times in its first 4 months leading to the renewed public interest in the investigation. The Smart family thanked Lambert for “his outstanding podcast” and attributed growing interest and progress in the unsolved case to his program.
In January 2020, the SLO Sheriff's Office released new information in the Kristin Smart investigation "in response to the large number of recent public inquiries," they stated.
The Sheriff’s Detective Division has a team of investigators and forensic specialists who are actively working on the case. From 2011 to 2019, the team serviced 18 search warrants, conducted physical evidence searches at nine separate locations, conducted a complete re-examination of every item of physical evidence seized by all agencies involved in this case, submitted 37 evidence items from the early days of the case for modern DNA testing, recovered 140 new items of evidence, conducted 91 person to person interviews, and written 364 supplemental reports, according to the January 2020 press release.
"Although it is generally not our practice to comment on items of evidence in active investigations, in this specific case we can confirm that the Sheriff’s Office currently holds two trucks in evidence that belonged to Flores family members in 1996. The Sheriff’s Office will not be commenting any further and no additional information will be released at this time," the statement concluded.
Cadaver dogs searching the home of Ruben Flores (Credit: SLO Sheriff)
Smart was being walked back to her dorm by four people including Paul Flores following an off-campus party the night she disappeared. Flores maintains his innocence stating they parted ways when he reached his dormitory which was before hers.
During a taped interview, Flores admitted to previously lying to investigators about a black eye. He said he received it while fixing his truck before ending the interview and refusing to answer questions. He later stated he received it playing basketball. Smart’s bloody earring was also found by a tenant at the former residence of Paul Flores’s mother. This earring has since mysteriously disappeared from police custody and initial searches of the Flores family home yielded no results.
Former San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ed Williams previously said “there are no other suspects” than Paul Flores in Smart’s disappearance, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
The Smart family filed a civil case of wrongful death against Flores in 2005. Flores has denied any involvement in the disappearance and his family also filed a lawsuit against the Smart family for emotional distress.
- January 29, 2020:
- February 5, 2020:
- April 22, 2020: Additional Search Warrant Issued in Kristin Smart Case