25 Years After Kristen Smart Disappeared, Two Suspects Have Reportedly Been Taken Into Custody

Twenty-five years after Cal Poly student Kristin Smart went missing, the only suspect in her disappearance, Paul Flores, was taken into custody in San Pedro, California, Tuesday, reportedly in connection with the case (per KSBY News). His father, Ruben Flores, was also reportedly taken into custody in Arroyo Grande. Another search warrant was also served at the elder Flores’ home.

“Please be advised Sheriff Parkinson will be holding a news conference today at 2:00 p.m. [PST] on O’Neill Green, in front of the Orfalea College of Business on the campus of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA,” a press representative from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office tells Rolling Stone.  “The Sheriff will be discussing major developments in the investigation into the disappearance of Kristin Smart. No further information will be available until that time.”

Flores was only named a suspect in Smart’s disappearance last month when the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant at Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home to use cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) on the property, according to a release issued at the time.

In February 2020, Flores’ home, his parents’ home, and his sister’s home were also searched by police. They seized digital devices during the search and, in April 2020, executed another search on Paul Flores’ property in San Pedro.

Smart, then 19, disappeared from Cal Poly campus in 1996, last seen with Paul Flores, a fellow student she had met at a party. Flores has long been a person of interest in the case and is the focus of popular true-crime podcast, Your Own Backyard, hosted by musician Chris Lambert. Lambert became obsessed with the case over the last few years due to the fact that it had never been solved. “True crime podcasting is not something that particularly captivated me,” Lambert told Rolling Stone last year. “But it was a local story and the thing that stood out to me is that nobody was talking about it anymore. I didn’t understand why. How are we not all talking about this every day until she’s found?”

The Sheriff’s Department has, in the past, credited Lambert’s podcast with renewing interest in the case. “The podcast that Chris put together is very well done,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson said in an interview with KVEC 920AM. “Getting the story out there is what [persuades] people to come forward with information. I think the value of it has been big.”

Denise Smart, Kristen’s mother, is similarly effusive about the show. “We feel like the stars aligned when the podcast aired,” she told Rolling Stone. “It encouraged the previously reluctant to come forward. … This obviously gave law enforcement new leads to follow and connect with what they already were holding close.”

Smart’s body was never found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

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