Paul Flores and his 80-year-old father Ruben were arrested for the murder of Kristin Smart, who hasn't been seen since 1996.
The parents of college student Kristin Smart, who went missing at the age of 19 in 1996, can be partially relieved that the people responsible for her death are finally going to be punished. Kristin, who was a California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) student, was last seen on May 25, 1996, around 2 a.m. near Perimeter and Grand Avenue.
She was accompanied by Paul Flores, her classmate, who was the last person she was seen with. He was going to walk her home after the party, but he ended up murdering her. Paul, 44, has remained a person of interest for all these years and has finally been arrested. His 80-year-old father Ruben Flores was also arrested for being an accessory to murder.
Kristin never returned to her dorm that fateful night in 1996 and was reported missing two days later. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office was the lead investigator in her disappearance back then, and it took them 25 years to catch the bad guys.
She was declared dead in 2002 but her parents never lost hope. They told KCRA 3 in 2003 that they are hopeful her body will be found one day. "[It's] a giant jigsaw puzzle, and we probably have a third of the puzzle filled in right now, but we're continually adding to the pieces," Denise Smart, Kristin's mother, said. "So I have every reason to believe that she will be found," she had added.
There was renewed interest in the case thanks to the true-crime podcast Your Own Backyard, as per NBC News. "Throughout our investigation, Paul Flores has remained a person of significant interest," San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said, adding "as the case progressed, he became a suspect and the prime suspect in the case."
Search warrants were issued for the premises of Paul and Ruben in February 2020, as per NBC News. The warrants were for "specific items of evidence" at four locations, as per the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office. Two of the locations were in San Luis Obispo County, one was in Washington, and authorities told NBC News that the fourth was a home in Los Angeles County.
In September 2016, the sheriff's deputies and FBI agents had excavated a section of Cal Poly's campus. The department had found "items of interest" back then. Those items were analyzed. It has not been revealed what was the specific piece of evidence led to the arrest of Paul and Ruben currently. Bail was set at $250,000 for Ruben.
In 2019, the Sheriff's office interviewed more people, many of whom came to light thanks to "the podcast." A warrant was served in March in Arroyo Grande at the home of Ruben. "As a result of this evidence, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge signed two arrest warrants and two additional search warrants," said Ian.
Paul's lawyer, Sarah Sanger, made no comments on the matter and Harold Mesick, an attorney for Ruben, declined to comment since he had not been able to meet his client.
Cover image source: San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office