Who is Paul Flores? California man, 44, arrested for Kristin Smart's 1996 murder, dad Ruben held as accessory

After over two decades of speculation, the prime suspect in the disappearance of college student Kristin Smart was arrested for murder


                            Who is Paul Flores? California man, 44, arrested for Kristin Smart's 1996 murder, dad Ruben held as accessory
Paul Flores has been charged with murder and his father Ruben Flores has been charged as an accessory in Kristin Smart's case (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIFORNIA: The disappearance of Kristin Smart who was legally declared dead in 2002 continued to be an actively investigated missing person case till January 2020. Paul Flores, 44, has been considered a person of interest in the case for the longest time as he was the last person to see her alive. Paul who has been described as the "prime suspect" in Smart's 25-year-old disappearance was arrested for murder in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles on April 13. His father Ruben Flores, 80, was also arrested as an accessory from his Arroyo Grande home, according to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson. 

Defense attorney Robert Sanger confirmed to the Associated Press that Paul was arrested in this case. His father was booked on suspicion of accessory after a felony, according to jail records. Parkinson said Paul was being held on no bail after he was arrested for murder and transported brought back to the county. His father is being held on $250,000 bail.

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Who is Paul Flores?

Paul was the classmate of Smart at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the last person to be seen with her 25 years ago. In 1996, Smart had left a college party and disappeared without a trace. Multiple rounds of interrogations and searches using radar and cadaver dogs were carried out but Smart's body was never found. A lack of hard evidence prevented the authorities from associating Paul with Smart's disappearance and death till Tuesday, April 13 when he was finally arrested on suspicion of murder. 

Parkinson suggested it was a combination of physical evidence seized in recent years and statements from previous witnesses that helped them get the judge's sign-off on arrest warrants for Paul and his father. 

Paul Flores (L) has been named the "prime suspect" in the disappearance of Kristin Smart (R) (Getty Images)

Paul was being investigated in this case by authorities from the very beginning. His classmates had described him as awkward and unpopular and five months before Smart disappeared, he had climbed onto her balcony drunk and refused to leave. This incident was reported to the police at the time by a female student. 

In various interviews, Paul had told investigators that he had walked Smart to her dormitory (on the night she disappeared) and returned to his room. He was sporting a black eye at the time which he initially said was due to being elbowed during a basketball game. Paul later changed his statement, admitted he had lied and said he had hit himself while working on a truck at his father's home. In 2006, it was reported that Paul told investigators who stressed that he was the last person to be seen with Smart, "If you are so smart, then tell me where the body is."

Who is Ruben Flores?

In the press conference held to officially announce the arrest of Paul and Ruben, Parkinson explained that detectives were able to secure a court order to intercept the electronic communication of the Flores. This was followed by search warrants served at the homes of Paul, Ruben and his wife and their daughter in February 2020. During these searches, the authorities discovered physical evidence "related to the murder of Kristin Smart", Parkinson had said at the time without elaborating further. 

A second search at Ruben's home last month also reportedly yielded evidence that resulted in a judge issuing two more search warrants and two arrest warrants - one for him and one for Paul. Since 2011, Parkinson said the sheriff's office has recovered "193 new items of evidence," conducted 138 in-person interviews and submitted almost 40 pieces of evidence to be re-examined using modern DNA-testing methods. They've also served over 40 search warrants during that time, although Parkinson declined to elaborate on what evidence was gathered. Ruben was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to the crime and a search at his Arroyo Grande home continued on April 13 afternoon and could continue into the next day. 

As for Kristin Smart, the search continues. When asked if he felt investigators are close to finding her remains, Parkinson was optimistic. "Yes, I believe we are," he said. "But only time will tell."

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