Nearly 25 years after Kristin Smart vanished while walking back to her dorm at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, authorities on Tuesday arrested a longtime person of interest in the case, law enforcement sources said.Paul Flores, long described as a “prime suspect” by authorities, was taken into custody by San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s officials. In the past, he has denied any wrongdoing.Flores’ father also was arrested Tuesday morning, sources said. The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office said Sheriff Ian Parkinson would announce “major developments” in the case at a news conference scheduled for 2 p.m.
Flores, who lives in San Pedro, was the last person seen with Smart before she disappeared in 1996. They were both students at the time.Smart, 19, was on her way home from an off-campus party. Flores was seen walking on a path to the college dormitories with her the night she went missing.
Paul Flores is shown at his home on Feb. 5, 2020, when his home and car were searched by sheriff’s deputies.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Flores was questioned in Smart’s disappearance at the time. He has lived in San Pedro for more than a decade while working in Orange County, according to sources. In 2016, federal investigators dug up a hillside near the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, looking for remains. They also searched the yard of a home.
Smart’s family has sued Flores in civil court. In response to the lawsuit, Flores denied the allegation. He invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before a grand jury and in a civil deposition.Investigators have long worked on the theory that Paul Flores killed Smart but, alone, could not have disposed of her remains. For the last four years, they have focused on methods that they allege could have been used to move the body. In the last year, investigators have examined all vehicles owned by Flores and his father in 1996, searching for DNA or other evidence. They recovered one truck that had been sold and another that belonged to Paul Flores that was reported stolen. Last month, an older VW Golf Cabriolet was taken from Ruben Flores’ garage.
In February, Flores was arrested by Los Angeles police on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The arrest stemmed from information from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, which searched Flores’ home in April accompanied by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies. Flores has a previous felony conviction for driving under the influence.The April search followed another in February at the home in the 900 block of West Upland Avenue and three other locations in California and Washington state. All the search warrants have remained sealed.