On May 25, 1996, Kristin Smart disappeared. At the time, she was a 19-year-old freshman at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, who'd grown up in Stockton, Calif. On the night of her disappearance, she was spotted at a house party, which she left with three people. One of them was Paul Flores, who, to this day, Kristin's family believes abducted and likely killed her.
Now, nearly 25 years after Kristin's disappearance, Paul has been arrested and people are starting to take another look at Kristin Smart's disappearance case, which has concerned so many Americans for years.
Where is Paul Flores now?
On Tues., April 13, 2021, Paul Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, were arrested in connection to Kristin Smart's case. Paul is currently still in the custody of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office, while Ruben was released on bail eight days after his arrest. According to CNN, authorities searched Ruben Flores' home (located in Arroyo Grande, Calif.) in March of 2021. A year prior, in 2020, authorities also searched Paul Flores' home and reportedly found "items of interest."
John Segale — a spokesperson for the Smarts — said that news of Paul and Ruben Flores' arrests brought "a lot of really emotional moments" for the family. "A lot of prayers, astonishment, excitement, happiness, and of course sadness," he said. "Sadness, because this has gone on for 25 years. The Smart family had not been able to bury their daughter. There was no closure."
Paul Flores has remained the prime suspect in Kristin's case for decades now, so his arrest may well be the first step toward some semblance of closure for the Smart family.
According to Daily Breeze, as of 2017, Flores was living in San Pedro and working in Irvine. He's had numerous run-ins with law enforcement over the years, even outside of the disappearance case.
He has multiple drunk driving convictions, for which he served time in 2000 at Santa Barbara County Jail. He was sentenced again for drinking while on probation. But perhaps the biggest news, which led even more credibility to the Smart family's belief that he was responsible for their daughter's disappearance, came in 2016 when the Daily Beast reported that several women had come forward to say that Flores had sexually assaulted them.
Four women told their stories and explained that they had all known or known of Flores before the assault. One woman was even his cousin. These were stories of people who he knew and who knew him, much like Kristin.
The stories told in the Daily Beast were corroborated by multiple witnesses. One of the women who came forward claimed she had been roofied first. Another woman, who said she was an ex-girlfriend of Flores, said that he once threatened her with a butter knife.
Why does the Smart family believe that Flores did it?
Flores was the last person to see Kristin alive. On the night of her disappearance, she was said to have appeared highly intoxicated and had trouble walking. She left the party in the early hours of the morning with a female friend and Flores. During the walk, the female friend parted ways with them after he said that he would see Kristin home safely. Eyewitnesses said that they saw her walk towards Muir Hall, her dorm, with him.
Later in the day, Flores was seen with a black eye. When he was questioned about it by authorities, he had multiple stories. He first said that it was caused by a basketball game, but his friend said he'd shown up to the game with it already. He then said that he got it working on a truck. He later told a friend that he didn't know how he got it. He'd just woken up with it.
Shortly after, he dropped out of Cal Poly, right before there was a search of his dorm building. The cadaver dogs who investigated the building led the police directly to his room, particularly his mattress, signaling that the smell of human decay had potentially once been there.
After the initial interviews, Flores refused to cooperate with the police. He would not talk to the deputies again and, when called before a grand jury, he entered and left the room within five minutes. For many years, the Smarts have attempted to pursue a wrongful-death lawsuit him, which would be a civil case, but the criminal investigation of Kristin's disappearance remains ongoing. It was ruled that the civil suit can't proceed unless the criminal investigation is inactive.
Now, 'Dateline' is revisiting Kristin's missing person case.
In an episode set to air on Oct. 29, 2021, Dateline will be revisiting Kristin's missing person case. Reporting for the special will be handled by Josh Mankiewicz and will include interviews with Kristin's brother, Matt Smart, as well as a former classmate of Kristin's who was one of the last people to see her at a party the night before she went missing.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs Ian Parkinson and Chris Lambert will also appear on the program. Their podcast, Your Own Backyard, has been instrumental in shining new light on the unsolved case. Now, they're taking their theories (and their leads) to one of the biggest platforms on cable television.
In an interview with Fox40, Chris explained Kristin's case is so personal to him because he "had acquaintances who had gone to high school with Paul Flores and gone to parties with Paul Flores and had had bad experiences with him." It's clear that Chris is very invested in the case, and hopefully, his efforts will help give the Smart family the justice they deserve.