Suspects Arrested in Connection With 1996 Disappearance of College Student Kristin Smart

Two suspects have been arrested in the disappearance of Kristin Smart, a college freshman who was last seen walking back to her dorm from a party in 1996.

Missing poster for Kristin Smart.

Image via Getty/Axel Koester

Missing poster for Kristin Smart.

On Tuesday morning two men were arrested in connection with the disappearance of Kristin Smart, a college freshman who was attending California Polytechnic State University when she disappeared on May 25, 1996. She was last seen near her dorm while walking home from a frat party. She never returned to her room, and nobody heard from her again. A massive search turned up nothing. She was declared legally dead in 2002. 

In a Tuesday news conference, San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said that Smart’s body had not been located, but that authorities had found forensic physical evidence they believed to be “linked to Kristin.” 

Authorities also contacted Smart’s family regarding news of the arrests. A spokesperson for that family, John Segale, told CNN that they were having “a lot of really emotional moments.” He added that there were “A lot of prayers, astonishment, excitement, happiness, and of course sadness. Sadness, because this has gone on for 25 years. The Smart family had not been able to bury their daughter. There was no closure.”

The two men arrested were 44-year-old Paul Flores, as well as his 80-year-old dad Ruben Flores. Paul has been booked on a murder charge and is being held without bail, while Ruben has been given an accessory charge, with bail set at $250,000. 

An arraignment for Paul will be held on Thursday. 

In March, authorities searched Ruben’s home. Paul has long been the prime suspect in Smart’s disappearance, as he was reportedly the last person to be seen with her. He has kept quiet about the suspicions against him for years, previously invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid potentially incriminating himself before a grand jury, and also in a deposition for a lawsuit. 

A search of Paul’s home also occurred in 2020, with investigators saying they located “items of interest” on the premises. He was detained in his house at the time of the search, but was released afterward. 

In 2016, rumors that Smart’s body was buried on campus led to investigators, along with a ground-penetrating radar and a trio of cadaver dogs, digging up a hillside. That search came up empty. 

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