Suspect and his father arrested 25 years after California university student disappeared

Ruben Fields
April 14, 2021

He was arrested for murder and is being held without bail, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference.

Two law enforcement sources confirmed the arrests were made Tuesday morning in the case.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's deputies searched Ruben Flores' home in March with cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar.

Flores, who was a student with Smart at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, was believed to be the last person seen with her before the 19-year-old vanished while walking back to her dorm after a party.

Ruben Flore is arrested for accessory after the fact by the San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Department in the murder of Kristin Smart.

Sarah Sanger, an attorney for Paul Flores, said that the law office did not comment on pending cases.

Ms Smart, from Stockton, vanished in May 1996 while returning to a dormitory at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo after a party.

For many years since Smart's disappearance, Paul Flores was only referred to as a person of interest. Flores, a fellow freshman at the school at the time, had offered to walk her home. While her body has never been found, she was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002.

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A sheriff on California's Central Coast plans to make a major announcement Tuesday in the almost 25-year mystery of the disappearance of college student Kristin Smart. They did not say if any evidence was found.

In Feb. 2020, detectives served search warrants at the home of Paul Flores, as well as his sister, mother, and father.

Last month, after refusing to speak with reporters for years, Susan Flores told a local television station she was exhausted of the enduring "harassment" by detectives who had treated her son as a "scapegoat".

"For over twenty-four years, we have waited for this bittersweet day".

Paul Flores has been under suspicion nearly from the start, but the case picked up steam in the past couple years after Parkinson ordered a thorough review of the evidence and a fulltime cold case detective was hired. Parkinson credited the podcast "Your Own Backyard" with helping to bring forth a new witness.

Smart's family said in their statement that "an indifference and lack of resolve we experienced early on set the course for many years". It is unclear what new evidence detectives had unearthed to prompt another search of the property, which was first scoured 20 years earlier, as an affidavit seeking a judge's sign-off on the warrant remains sealed.

Investigators served another search warrant at the home of Ruben about 24km south of the university on California's Central Coast, KSBY-TV reported. They continued to use radar to search the grounds and the sound of power saws and drills whined in the background.

After speaking with investigators in the weeks after Smart's disappearance, Paul Flores refused to discuss the case when he was called to testify before a grand jury and again later in a deposition for a civil suit brought by Smart's family.

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