Two suspects arrested in the disappearance of Kristin Smart

Taylor Martinez & City News Service

A San Pedro resident, a longtime person of interest in the 1996 disappearance of his former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo classmate Kristin Smart, was taken into custody Tuesday at his home and booked on suspicion of murder, and his father was booked on suspicion of being an accessory.

Paul Flores, long described as a “prime suspect” by authorities, was taken into custody in San Pedro early Tuesday morning by San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s officials and driven to San Luis Obispo, where he was booked shortly after noon.

His Santa Maria-based attorney, Robert Sanger, confirmed he was informed of his client’s arrest but said he had no further comment. He also said he does not represent the elder Flores.

John Segale, the Smart family’s spokesman, said the family was notified by law enforcement officials that Flores and his father were arrested Tuesday morning.

“Given that this is an extremely emotional day, the Smart family will not be conducting any interviews and will not be meeting with any reporters today or in the foreseeable future,” Segale said in a statement.

Ruben Flores, 80, of Arroyo Grande, was arrested at his home and booked on suspicion of being an accessory, with bail set at $250,000, San Luis Obispo jail records show.

A 2 p.m. news conference is planned by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson to discuss “major developments in the investigation into the disappearance of Kristin Smart.”

Flores was the last person seen with Smart before she disappeared. Smart, then 19, was on her way home from an off-campus party. Flores was seen walking on a path to the college dormitories with her the night she went missing.

Flores, who was questioned about Smart’s disappearance at the time, has lived for more than a decade in San Pedro, where authorities served a search warrant at his Upland Avenue home last April in a quest “for specific items of evidence” related to the investigation into Smart’s disappearance, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department spokesman said then.

In February 2020, search warrants were served in San Pedro, San Luis Obispo County and Washington state, but authorities declined to provide specifics about the nature of the searches.

In 2016, federal investigators dug up a hillside near the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, looking for remains. They also searched the yard of a home. Investigators have also examined vehicles that Flores and his father owned at the time of Smart’s disappearance.

Smart’s family has sued Flores in civil court. He invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before a grand jury and in a civil deposition.

A woman who identified herself as Flores’ aunt spoke to KTLA Tuesday in San Pedro.

“I asked him. He said he didn’t do anything to her, that he liked her. I don’t know,” Karen Kinsley said.

Since 2011, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s office has served search warrants, conducted physical evidence searches, submitted evidence items from the early days of the case for modern DNA testing, recovered more than 100 new items of evidence, conducted more than 90 in-person interviews and written more than 360 supplemental reports, according to media reports.

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