Kristin Smart was a 19-year-old freshman at Cal Poly, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, when she disappeared after a walk home from an off-campus party early in the morning on May 25, 1996. She was last seen at around 2 a.m. walking with fellow student Paul Flores.
She was reported missing a couple of days later and the investigation began with Flores as a main suspect, San Luis Obispo Tribune reported. In 1997, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office revealed there were no other suspects in the case apart from Flores but despite that, there was insufficient evidence to charge him.
On May 25, 2002, despite her body not being found, Smart was declared legally dead, the Tribune reported. While the investigation remained open, there were no significant leads for over two decades until Santa Maria resident Chris Lambert launched a podcast in 2019 devoted to finding out more about Smart’s disappearance. The popular podcast renewed the public’s interest in the case.
What are the latest updates in the Kristin Smart murder case? Was her body ever found?
There Were Major Developments in the Case in Early 2020 That Led to Flores’ Arrest & He Was Charged With Smart’s Murder
In early 2020, authorities searched several properties belonging to Paul Flores and his family, and in March 2021, Flores’ father’s property was searched with the assistance of “cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar,” a press release stated. In April 2021, Paul Flores and Ruben Flores, his father, were arrested. Paul Flores was charged with murder while Ruben Flores was charged with accessory to the murder as prosecutors argued he helped his son hide Smart’s body.
According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, court documents stated that “dozens of women have recounted Paul Flores’ sexual assaults and predatory behavior that document his 25 years as a serial rapist.” During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors argued that rape pornography was found in Flores’ home during one of the searches, “including homemade videos allegedly showing Flores raping incapacitated women,” the Tribune wrote.
According to the outlet, the sheriff’s office announced that since 2011:
It has served 18 search warrants, conducted physical evidence searches at nine locations, submitted 37 evidence items from the early days of the case for modern DNA testing, recovered 140 new items of evidence… conducted 91 in-person interviews, written 364 supplemental reports related to the case and spent approximately $62,000 in investigative expenses during this time.
On September 22, 2021, the preliminary hearing ended and the judge ruled that Paul and Ruben Flores will face a jury trial.
Smart’s Body Has Not Been Found to This Day & Prosecutors Argued That It Was Moved From Under Ruben Flores’ Deck
The Tribune reported that court documents stated that, “The excavation below [Ruben Flores’] deck at 710 White Court showed damning evidence that a body had been buried in that location and then recently moved.”
Some of the records related to the case were unsealed in July 2021, which included the information that, “Traces of human blood and fibers possibly from clothing was found in samples taken from a roughly 4-by-6-foot patch of disturbed soil under the back deck at Ruben Flores’ White Court property.” According to these documents, an archeologist said a body had likely been buried there then removed, with the hole refilled.
According to Rolling Stone, the fibers of clothing found in the soil underneath the deck were consistent with the color of clothing Smart was last seen wearing.