Arrest Made of Longtime Prime Suspect In Kristin Smart's Unsolved 1996 Murder

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Paul Flores, who was the last person seen with Smart before her disappearance in 1996, was arrested in San Pedro on Tuesday, and booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of murder.

"I can tell you that those items were found both inside the homes and also outside the homes", said Tony Cipolla, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office public information officer.

Search warrants were served past year on Paul Flores' home in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles and at other locations in California and Washington state.

The case was originally handled by Cal Poly police and the district attorney's office. Flores has claimed for over two decades that he went into his dorm and left Smart to walk by herself to hers, but he was the last person to have seen her alive.

However, the sheriff said authorities have not yet found Smart's remains.

Paul Flores was known to frequent bars in San Pedro from 2005 until recently, Dow said.

"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", they said.

The key suspect in the 1996 cold case disappearance of Kristin Smart has been arrested on a murder charge in southern California, while his father was simultaneously arrested on an accessory charge, according to jail records posted online on Tuesday.

"The DA's Office has carefully reviewed the case and independently determined sufficient evidence exists to proceed with the case", Dow said.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office is expected to hold a press conference regarding the arrests at 5 p.m. ET.

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The whereabouts of Smart's body remain a mystery.

Smart, 19, of Stockton, was last seen May 25, 1996, while returning to her dorm at California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Paul Flores was the last person seen with Kristin Smart before she vanished from a college campus on California's scenic Central Coast almost 25 years ago and suspicion has followed him ever since. Authorities declared her dead in 2002.

May 25, 2021, marks 25 years since Kristin's disappearance.

The statute of limitations has expired on a sexual assault charge, but the allegation that was "committing or attempting to commit a rape when he killed her is the basis for filing first-degree felony charges", Dow said.

Such no-body prosecutions, Dow said, are "incredibly important for the victim's family because they want closure".

At this point, the evidence points to Paul Flores committing a murder and his father, Ruben Flores, acting as an accessory, Dow said.

New witnesses came forward and warrants allowed investigators to intercept and monitor Paul Flores' phone and text messages and search his own home, along with those of his mother, father and sister that turned up new evidence, Parkinson said.

At a news conference Tuesday, county Sheriff Ian Parkinson confirmed the arrests followed new evidence investigators acquired in the past two years. And the arrests come a month after new searches were conducted at Ruben Flores's home, including a search under a back deck and in the backyard with ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs. Physical evidence was gathered in subsequent searches of the homes of Flores family members, including evidence found in March at Ruben Flores's home that was linked to Smart, according to the sheriff.

Flores had nothing to say when arrested, Parkinson said.

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