The longtime suspect in the 25-year-old disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder and his father was booked in jail as an accessory to the crime. His father, Ruben Flores, 80, was also charged with accessory to the killing, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said.
In February 2020, detectives served search warrants at the homes of Paul Flores and his family, the sheriff said.
Shortly after Ian Parkinson was sworn in as sheriff on January 3, 2011, he revealed plans to find Smart and hold the person responsible for her disappearance accountable.
Smart's family issued a statement through a spokesman.
Smart, a native of Stockton, was nearing the end of her freshman year at Cal Poly when she vanished on May 25, 1996, after attending an off-campus party. She was seen with Mr Flores, who was a student at the time.
Flores has been under suspicion nearly from the start, but the case has picked up steam in the past couple years.
Smart's family said in a statement Tuesday: "For over twenty-four years, we have waited for this bittersweet day".
"While Kristin's loving spirit will always live in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates", they said.
In the almost 25 years since Smart's disappearance, Flores has denied any wrongdoing. It is unclear what new evidence detectives had unearthed to prompt another search of the property, which was first scoured 20 years earlier, as an affidavit seeking a judge's sign-off on the warrant remains sealed. He chose to dig deeper.
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Authorities said they picked the locations based on a lead they had developed and because three Federal Bureau of Investigation dogs trained to detect human decomposition "alerted" in those areas. Parkinson credited the podcast "Your Own Backyard" with helping to bring forth a new witness.
About 8:30 p.m. on May 24, she and three companions left their dorms, a staggered row of brick and concrete buildings set against a steep incline known as Poly Hill. Sheriff's investigators didn't get involved until a month later.
Sheriff Parkinson said Flores would possibly be arraigned on Thursday.
Busloads of volunteers, horses and ground-penetrating radar were called in for a search after Smart went missing.
Parkinson on Tuesday said he believes law enforcement is now closer to recovering Smart's body, but added that "only time will tell". "There was something of value in various locations that have kept coming up and coming to light".
Flores was taken into custody in Tuesday morning San Pedro, Los Angeles County. Police are again searching home linked to 'prime suspect'. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions before a grand jury and in a deposition for a lawsuit that Smart's family brought against him in civil court.
Flores was being held without bail. Defense attorney Robert Sanger declined to comment, though he confirmed Flores was arrested. He is being held on $250,000 bail. It wasn't immediately clear who his lawyer was. They appeared to be disassembling a deck outside the home and the sound of power saws and drills could be heard whining in the background. The case began as a missing persons case when Smart disappeared after an on-campus party on Memorial Day Weekend in 1996.
Over the years, the case has run mostly lukewarm, never officially going cold.