What we know about Kristin Smart’s disappearance and the case against Paul Flores
The decades-long mystery over the disappearance of Kristin Smart took a new turn Wednesday when a judge ruled that Paul Flores will be tried for murder in the case. Flores’ father will also face charges that he was an accessory to the alleged crime.
Paul Flores was arrested in April nearly 25 years after Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart, 19, vanished. Her body has never been found.
Here is what we know about the case:
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.
Fourteen years ago, police in Redondo Beach were called to a hospital where a woman had come after waking up in a stranger’s bed, naked and with no memory of what had happened.
Smart, then 19, of Stockton, disappeared on Memorial Day weekend. About 8:30 p.m. on May 24, she and three companions left their Cal Poly San Luis Obispo dorms, a staggered row of brick and concrete buildings set against a steep incline known as Poly Hill. They grabbed a ride in a truck to a party at an unofficial fraternity house near campus. Her friends did not want to go to the party, so they dropped off Smart a couple of blocks away. Tim Davis, a senior who helped stage the party, told investigators he was shooing away the last stragglers about 2 a.m. when he spotted a tall girl later identified as Smart sprawled on a lawn next door, apparently passed out. He roused her. She was in no condition to walk home alone. Davis and Cheryl Anderson were going to walk her home when Flores, a 19-year-old from the nearby town of Arroyo Grande, volunteered to help. Smart was last seen walking home with him, authorities said. Busloads of volunteers, horses and ground-penetrating radar were called in for a search after Smart went missing.
San Luis Obispo County district attorney’s officials interviewed Flores. As investigators pressed him, he pulled his arms into his T-shirt, bent over at the waist in his chair and lifted his feet off the floor, as if moving toward a fetal position, records show. Later, Flores invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before a grand jury and during a civil deposition.
Smart was declared legally dead. But her family vowed to get justice for her.
Smart’s family sought donations to keep two billboards up beside U.S. 101 to raise awareness of her case.
Her family continued to press for a resolution of her case. “You live because you can’t give up,” Denise Smart told the Stockton Record in 2008.
FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies from San Luis Obispo County spent five days digging up three locations on the hillside where Smart was last seen alive. The dig uncovered remains, but they were believed to be of animals and not related to the case. Authorities said they picked the locations based on a lead they had developed and because three FBI dogs trained to detect human decomposition “alerted” in those areas.
Flores was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, based on information developed when his home was searched.
Detectives with the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s department served a search warrant at the Arroyo Grande home of Ruben Flores, the father of Paul Flores.
Paul Flores was taken into custody by San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s officials. In the past, Flores denied any wrongdoing. Flores’ father also was arrested at his home in Arroyo Grande. The 80-year-old was booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact, jail records show. Armed with a warrant, investigators were searching Ruben Flores’ home and garage, according to television news reports.
Prosecutors allege in court that Paul Flores “has a specific fetish for forcing himself upon women especially when they are drugged or inebriated, which is exactly the state of Kristin Smart in the early morning of March 25, 1996.”
Defense attorneys evoke Scott Peterson for possible link to case.
Judge Craig B. Van Rooyen on Wednesday morning made the decision there was probable cause to try both father and son after hearing 22 days of testimony in which the prosecutor laid out a circumstantial case against Paul Flores. During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor solicited testimony from witness Jennifer Hudson that the now 44-year-old Flores admitted to the crime to her in 1996. Deputy Dist. Atty. Chris Peuvrelle, seeking to also try Ruben Flores as an accessory to the crime, elicited testimony that he said shows the father allegedly concealed the body, eventually moving it after years of keeping some of the remains below a deck at his Arroyo Grande home. In arguing for the case’s dismissal, Paul Flores’ attorney Robert Sanger said “there was no consistent theory” about where Smart’s body went and no proof of what happened to her.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.