Paul Flores was the key witness in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart. Smart has long been suspected to have been abducted and killed in May 1996, while she was a freshman at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Smart was last seen as three fellow students helped her home following a party. Flores was among those students and was the last to see Smart alive.
At the time of Smart’s disappearance, Flores was a 19-year-old food science major at Cal-Poly. He lived in the dorm building across from Smart’s room. Flores and Smart had spoken at the party she had attended, witnesses said. Kristin Smart was declared legally dead in May 2002.
In January 2020, Smart’s mother, Denise Smart, told the Stockton Record that she had been contacted by the FBI regarding her daughter’s disappearance. Denise Smart said that she was told, “Be ready. This is really going to be something you don’t expect. We want to give you the support you need.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Denise Smart Has Stated Her Belief That Paul Flores Is Responsible for Her Daughter’s Death
The creator of the podcast, “Your Own Backyard: The Disappearance of Kristin Smart,” Chris Lambert told the Stockton Record that he believes Flores is responsible for Smart’s death. Lambert said in January 2019, “I believe that Paul Flores is responsible for her death and I believe that he knows where she is currently located. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Denise Smart who told Fox40 in May 2018, “Paul Flores is without question the perpetrator to this crime. I believe (Flores) took her life. She did not walk away and go kill herself. She did not walk away and lose her life. She did not walk away and dig herself a grave. She was kidnapped.”
Lambert spoke about what he felt was the biggest error in the early investigation by the sheriff’s office. Lambert said, “The biggest mistake I think the sheriff’s department made was that the first sheriff commented within one year of investigating that if (Flores) didn’t talk they would never be able to solve this. That was a huge judgment error.” In order to produce the documentary, Lambert quit his job to devote himself to the podcast. Audio from Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, can be heard on an episode of the podcast in which Ruben says he never spoke to his son about the disappearance of Smart.
You can support his endeavor here.
2. Flores Sported a Black Eye the Day After Kristin Smart Went Missing; He Changed His Story About How He Got it
In 1998, the San Francisco Examiner ran a feature on Flores that included a quote from his former lawyer, Greg Coates, who said that there were “no facts to indicate that Paul had anything to do with the disappearance of Kristin Smart.”
The report said, citing police records, that Flores had a black eye on the day after Smart’s disappearance. That was discovered after Flores turned himself in on a DUI charge. Flores sported the injury in his booking photo. The article added that Flores changed his story about how he got the black eye, first saying that he got it playing basketball and then later saying that he got it while fixing his car. Flores said that the reason for changing his story was because he thought it would “sound stupid” if he said that he couldn’t remember how he got the black-eye. At one point, Flores said that he woke up with a black eye. One of his friends had told authorities that Flores already had a black eye when he showed up to play in a pick-up game. Flores was named as a key witness in the case in July 1996.
3. Flores Was Offered a 6-Year Prison Term in Exchange for Information About the Whereabouts of Smart’s Remains
Flores was subpoenaed before a grand jury in relation to Smart’s disappearance but left after just five minutes of questions. The Charley Project said that Flores had been offered a plea deal involving a guilty plea for involuntary manslaughter with a six-year prison term. In exchange, Flores would disclose where Smart’s remains are located. Shortly after that, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff sniffer dogs were brought on the Cal Poly campus. Those dogs led officers to Flores’ mattress but no hard evidence was found. The Smart family sued Flores in 1996 in an attempt to get some answers in civil court about their daughter, but Flores took the fifth amendment.
In later years, the Examiner reports that the Smart family constantly harassed Flores and his family in order to get him to speak about what he knew about Smart’s disappearance. To the extent that he was forced to leave jobs because of the Smart family. Thew newspaper adds that the Navy refused to take Flores because of his connection to the Smart case. Flores dropped out of Cal Poly during the summer of 1996. According to the Charley Project, Flores had been making poor grades and was in danger of being kicked out of school due after he received a DUI. Flores removed most of his personal belongings from his dorm room before it was ever searched by the police. The Charley Project goes on to say that Flores would regularly drink heavily and that he was not popular among the student body.
Denise Smart told the Examiner in 1998, “We’re not after Paul Flores; we’re not trying to persecute Paul Flores. We’re after our daughter. We only want our daughter back.” At the time of the article, Flores was living in Southern California.
4. In 2016, 4 Women Came Forward to Accuse Flores of Sexual Assault
The Daily Beast reported in November 2016 that four women had come forward to accuse Flores of sexually assaulting them. The first alleged incident occurred in 1994 when a woman accused Flores, then a high school sophomore is accused of drugging a raping a fellow student. The Daily Beast report says that Flores is accused of having an accomplice in the crime. That victim, named as Jane, told the website, “The next thing I know is the cops telling me ‘We can’t do anything because [Paul] and his friend are saying she was drunk and it was consensual.’”
The Daily Breeze reported in September 2016 that Flores was living in San Pedro, California, since 2011 and had been working in Irvine. In August 2011, a Facebook page dedicated to the search for Smart published his exact address. One neighbor told the newspaper that Flores had “been nothing but a good neighbor.” The same report said that Flores grew up in Torrance, California.
The Modesto Bee reported in January 2003 that Scott Peterson, the man who was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, in December 2002, was being “eyed for link” to the Smart case. Peterson was a 24-year-old student at Cal Poly at the time of Smart’s disappearance. Laci Peterson had also been a student at Cal Poly.
In 2007, Flores had a DUI case dismissed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The Santa Maria Times reports that Flores has three DUI convictions on his record, as of 2007. In only one of those instances, in 2000, did Flores serve time. Flores was imprisoned at Santa Barbara County Jail for a time. He had been sentenced to 240 days in the crime. In another case, he was granted probation. Flores has no criminal record involving violent crime.
5. Smart Family Supporters Held a Vigil Outside of Flores’ Mother’s Home in November 2019
Authorities dug up areas around the Arroyo Grande home of Susan Flores, Paul Flores’ mother, in May 2007 but turned up no evidence of Smart’s whereabouts, the Santa Maria Times reported. Prior to that incident, Susan Flores and her boyfriend had filed a harassment lawsuit against Smart’s family.
In November 2019, supporters of Smart’s family held a vigil outside of Susan Flores’ home, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported at the time.