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After twenty-five years, police have someone in custody for Kristin Smart's disappearance. Why was Paul Flores arrested after being a suspect for years?

Did Paul Flores kill Kristin Smart? Find out the newest update to the case

After twenty years of searching & speculation, the case of Kristin Smart has a suspect. Two, in fact. Police arrested Smart’s former classmate Paul Flores for murder and arrested Flores’s father Ruben as an accessory. 

Kristin Smart went missing nearly twenty-five years ago when she was a student at California Polytechnic State University. Her body still hasn’t been located, but according to San Luis Obispo Sheriff Ian Parkinson, the search isn’t over yet. 

“I have spoken to the Smart family numerous times, including this morning, in fact twice today. I think they’re feeling a bit of relief, but as you can imagine until we return Kristin to them this is not over. We have committed to them that we are not going to stop until Kristin has been recovered, no matter what the cost”, Parkinson told the press. 

According to SF Gate, Paul Flores has been the only suspect in the disappearance of Kristin Smart since the case opened, leading us to ask: why arrest Flores now? Let’s delve into this cold case that’s now turned hot. 

Kristin Smart’s disappearance

On Memorial Day 1996, at 2:00 a.m., nineteen-year-old freshman Kristin Smart headed back to her dorm after attending a frat party with three other students. One of them was Paul Flores, who told police he dropped Smart off on the corner of Grand Avenue & Perimeter Road. 

Aside from being the last person to see Kristin Smart, there were other details from that night that made Paul Flores a person of interest in Smart’s disappearance. First, the police report detailed he had a black eye when he was questioned about Smart’s whereabouts. His story of how he got the back eye changed from a basketball game to fixing his car. Later, he refused to talk to authorities further. 

Despite no hard evidence existing in Kristin Smart’s disappearance, her parents continued to search the campus for their daughter – or for any evidence of what happened to her. They, however, suspected Paul Flores, who said he saw their daughter home safely, but she never made it back to her room. 

“It’s been like having an open wound and having someone continually pouring salt in it”,  Denise Smart told SF Gate in 1998, over a year after her daughter’s disappearance. “Having a missing child is just not something that gets better over time. It’s another dimension, and it just can’t heal”, she said tearfully. 

Kristin Smart’s parents tried to get evidence out of Paul Flores, but he refused to talk to them, frequently changing his job & whereabouts seemingly to evade them. Smart’s parents then sued him for wrongful death, but he invoked the Fifth amendment, the U.S. Constitutional right not to incriminate oneself, and the case was dropped. 

New evidence

In April 2020, police got a search warrant for a Los Angeles residence of Paul Flores for “specific items of evidence” related to Kristin Smart’s disappearance. They also got warrants to wiretap Paul Flores’s phone and check his text messages. Older evidence would also be reevaluated with new DNA technology. 

However, details on what evidence they were looking for were kept under wraps. “I can tell you, unfortunately, the search warrants are sealed, which means I cannot discuss what evidence was found”, Ian Parkinson explained to the media. 

Despite the unclear nature of the evidence, inside sources told SF Gate the “walls were closing in” on Paul Flores, and they had over three terabytes of data to send to the district attorney on the case. 

This also wasn’t Paul Flores’s first brush with the law in 2021. In February, he was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is a felony itself in California. The felony was for a DUI charge unrelated to Kristin Smart’s disappearance. It’s unclear if police secured new evidence against Flores while he was in lockup earlier this year. 

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