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After 24 Years, Two Suspects Have Been Arrested in the Disappearance of College Student Kristin Smart


Kristin Denise Smart

Two arrests have been made in the 1996 disappearance of California college student Kristin Denise Smart, 19. The primary defendant is a man who authorities long treated as a suspect. Paul Flores, 44, was arrested Tuesday for murder in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, according to San Luis Obispo County jail records viewed by Law&Crime.

His father Ruben Flores was taken into custody in the city of Arroyo Grande, accused of being an accessory, according to ABC 10. Defense attorney Robert Sanger declined to comment to the outlet, though he acknowledged Paul Flores was taken into custody.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson declined to discuss details behind the search warrants leaning to the arrest. He said the filings were sealed, and he also cited the defendants’ due process. He also declined to discuss how authorities believe Smart died, or the motive behind the murder.

Parkinson did say that they discovered evidence in late 2016 confirming Paul Flores as the suspect behind the murder. In 2019, investigators interviewed witnesses not previously spoken to. Parkinson credited the podcast “Your Own Backyard” with bringing new information to light.

Neither of the defendants said anything of consequence during the arrests, Parkinson said.

Authorities have yet to find Smart’s remains.

Authorities are searching the home of the elder Flores.

Paul Flores was previously identified as the last person with Smart.

The FBI says that Smart, a student at California Polytechnic State University, was last seen at about 2 a.m. on May 25, 1996. She was walking back to her to her dorm room from an off-campus party while accompanied by a fellow student (Flores). According to the FBI, that student said he left Smart a block from her Muir Hall dorm, and he returned to his building. Smart didn’t return home, authorities said.

Paul Flores was detained in 2020 when authorities executed search warrants at four locations, but this did not end in an arrest.

Investigators and Smart’s loved ones long suspected him. Cops said they caught Flores in a lie in 1996 about how he got a black eye. Flores also invoked the Fifth Amendment during a 1997 deposition, after Smart’s family sued him for the wrongful death of Kristin. Smart was declared dead in 2002.

Update – 5:33 p.m. ET: We added information from the press conference about the arrests.

[Image via Federal Bureau of Investigation]

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