Suspect in Kristin Smart disappearance investigated in L.A. sexual assault cases

A man in a shirt reading "Sheriff" grips a handcuffed Paul Flores by the arm.
Paul Flores is arrested by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of murder of Kristin Smart, who went missing 25 years ago after leaving a college party.
(San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department)

Paul Flores, the man accused this week in the slaying of Cal Poly SLO student Kristin Smart in 1996, was years later investigated for sexual assault cases in the Los Angeles area, police and prosecutors have revealed.

San Luis Obispo prosecutors charged Flores with first-degree murder, alleging that he killed Smart in his college dorm room as he sexually assaulted her. He has in the past denied wrongdoing.

Authorities in Los Angeles County say Flores, who lived in San Pedro, was also the subject of sexual assault investigations locally.

One warm Friday night in late spring 10 years ago, Kristin Denise Smart and three other young women started walking from their dorms at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

June 18, 2006


What do we know about the L.A.-area cases?

LAPD Capt. Jonathan Tippet, head of the agency’s Robbery-Homicide Division, said detectives in recent months gathered evidence against Flores in two sexual assaults that allegedly occurred over several years.

The L.A. County district attorney’s office has not made a decision whether to file criminal charges against Flores in the alleged attacks.

In 2013, Redondo Beach police presented prosecutors with a rape allegation. The D.A. declined to charge Flores in that case “due to insufficient evidence,” officials said.

Paul Flores, long described as a ‘prime suspect,’ was taken into custody by San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s officials

April 13, 2021

Is there an ongoing investigation?

L.A. County authorities provided few details about the local cases, but Tippet said the two LAPD cases were open and ongoing.

San Luis Obispo County Dist. Atty. Dan Dow said his office is looking into whether Flores sexually assaulted other women in San Pedro, where he has lived since about 2005.

He asked that women who may have been assaulted by Flores contact San Luis Obispo authorities.

On Tuesday, San Luis Obispo County authorities arrested longtime suspect Paul Flores along with his father in connection with Smart’s slaying.

April 14, 2021


Where does the Smart case stand?

Flores, 44, was arrested Tuesday at his home, nearly 25 years after Smart left a party near the Cal Poly campus and vanished on the way back to her dormitory.

Dow said prosecutors decided they could prove Flores’ guilt after investigators discovered more evidence and interviewed new witnesses in the last two years. He declined to provide specifics, saying only that text messages taken from Flores’ phone had been “helpful” and that detectives obtained “very important” information in March. Investigators that month searched a home owned by Flores’ father with cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar.

“We’ve got physical evidence,” Dow said, “we have witness statements, things that, in our view, in their totality, have brought us to the point where we believe we can go forward and prosecute Mr. Flores for the murder of Kristin Smart.”

Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, 80, was charged Wednesday as an accessory to Smart’s murder. He is accused of helping his son dispose of Smart’s remains.

The arrest comes nearly 25 years after Smart vanished while walking back to her dorm at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

April 13, 2021

What is the next step?

Both men have yet to enter a plea. An arraignment scheduled for Thursday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court was postponed until Monday.

Flores’ family has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Last month, his mother reiterated the claim, telling a television reporter, “We have no responsibility for her disappearance and what happened to that young woman.”

The whereabouts of Smart’s body remain a mystery. On Wednesday, Dow said “we do believe we have the location where the body was buried,” but would not elaborate. Authorities have not found Smart’s remains and are continuing to search for them, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Tuesday.