San Luis Obispo Sheriff Arrests Suspect for Murder of Kristin Smart

By edhat staff

The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office has arrested two people in connection with the disappearance of Kristin Smart nearly 25 years ago.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson held a press conference Tuesday afternoon and stated 43-year-old Paul Flores, the prime suspect in the case, was arrested for the murder of Kristin Smart around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in San Pedro. Paul’s father, Ruben Flores, was arrested at the same time in Arroyo Grande as an accessory to the murder.

Newly discovered forensic physical evidence was discovered that Parkinson believes is linked to Smart, but he clarified her body has yet to be discovered.

“We have not recovered Kristin. We’ll continue to focus on finding her remains regardless of any court action,” said Parkinson.

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 was being walked back to her dorm by four people including Paul Flores, then 19, following an off-campus party the night she disappeared. Paul Flores maintains his innocence stating they parted ways when he reached his dormitory which was before hers. Smart is believed to have been abducted and killed, and was legally presumed dead on May 25, 2002.

Kristin Smart (courtesy photo)

Police had kept Paul Flores as a person of interest in the case but were unable to bring charges against him. The Smart family filed a civil case of wrongful death against Paul Flores in 2005. Flores denied any involvement in the disappearance and his family also filed a lawsuit against the Smart family for emotional distress. 

When Parkinson became the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff in 2011 he requested a complete review of all physical evidence in the case and in 2016 he requested a cold case detective to work on the Smart investigation. 

Paul Flores has remained a significant person of interest throughout the entire investigation, and as the case progressed, he became the prime suspect in the case, said Sheriff Parkinson.

In late 2016 additional evidence was discovered that confirmed Paul Flores as the suspect in Smart’s disappearance. In 2019, detectives interviewed several witnesses that had not previously been interviewed. Sheriff Parkinson said of this information came to light thanks to Chris Lambert’s podcast about the case titled “Your Own Backyard.” 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. 

The arrest of Paul Flores in San Pedro (courtesy SLO Sheriff)

Sheriff Parkinson stated the new evidence and new witnesses secured a court order to monitor Paul Flores’ cell phone and text messages. In February 2020, search warrants were served at the homes of Paul Flores’ father Ruben Flores, his mother Susan Flores, and his sister Ermalinda Flores. Evidence recovered at these searches led to additional searches at Paul Flores’ home in San Pedro in April 2020 where evidence was recovered relating to the murder. In March of this year, another search warrant was executed in Arroyo Grande at Ruben Flores’ home where additional evidence was discovered.

Sheriff Parkinson believes they are closer to finding Smart and stated physical evidence was found at two homes. 

The search warrants are sealed and the evidence recovered cannot be disclosed. In total, the Sheriff’s Office has executed 41 search warrants at 16 physical locations, a complete reexamination of every item seized including modern DNA testing on 37 items, recovered 193 new pieces of physical evidence, 137 person-to-person interviews, and conducted over 500 additional police reports.

As a result of this new evidence, a San Luis Obispo County judge signed two arrest warrants and two additional search warrants. The searches could take the rest of the day or continue through Wednesday, said Sheriff Parkinson.

The case has been turned over to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for further proceedings. Paul Flores is being held at the San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail. Ruben Flores is being held with a $250,000 bail. 

Paul Flores booking photo (Courtesy of SLO Sheriff)

Ruben Flores booking photo (Courtesy of SLO Sheriff)


Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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