According to stunning new allegations by prosecutors, Paul Flores killed Kristen Smart following attempts to sexually assault her in her dorm room on the night she went missing. This week, investigators, family members, and true crime fans are all feeling some semblance of progress in the case of missing Cal Poly student, Kristen Smart after Paul Flores, a long-time person of interest in the case was arrested in connection with her disappearance. Smart disappeared in 1996 after she left a party with her friends and never arrived back at her student dormitory. Since her disappearance, investigators have been looking Flores, who was reportedly the last person to see Smart before she went missing.
The public’s fascination with the Kristen Smart’s case goes back to 1996 when she first went missing. The Cal Poly student was on her way to a party the night she went missing, May 24, 1996. She was supposed to speak to her parents on the phone before she left her dorm room for the party, but her parents never heard from her. Kristen ended up at an off-campus party where she became heavily intoxicated and passed out on the lawn of a neighboring house. Kristen was leaving the party with friends when Paul Flores came up on them and offered to walk Kristen back to her dorm. Kristen was never heard from again, and Paul Flores has always been identified as the last person to see her alive.
The theory that Paul Flores killed Kristen Smart came from the presumed timeline of Kristen’s last movements the night she disappeared. Since Flores was the last person to be seen with her, it stands to reason he would have information about her disappearance. However, over the years, Paul Flores has proven to be a tough nut to crack. Despite the fact that Flores remained ingrained in discourse around the case for the next 20 years, he was never formally charged by law enforcement, and invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination when deposed in a wrongful death suit in 2005 levied by Kristen’s parents. Despite numerous searches by law enforcement, friends, and family, her remains have never been found.
Authorities investigating the disappearance of Kristen Smart have credited a true-crime podcast in part for the progress that has been made in the case. Your Own Backyard, a true-crime podcast that takes a deep dive into Kristen Smart’s disappearance, was launched in 2019 by Chris Lambert, a veteran podcaster who was humble when describing his investigative efforts to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, “The podcast was one part of the whole formula. Even with what I found, I can’t go arrest somebody. I needed [the sheriff’s office] to do their job. I was willing to do what I could to assist in that. You can get varying levels of agreement about what I did directly led to an arrest. My personal opinion was that I was one piece of the formula.” Following the release of the podcast, law enforcement was able to develop leads. Paul Flores and his father, Ruben, was also arrested as an accessory after the fact and is believed to have helped Flores dispose of Kristen’s remains. In a press conference following their arrest, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said to the media, “In 2019, we interviewed several witnesses that had not been previously interviewed and some of that information came to light through the podcast that many of you are familiar with.”
Paul Flores and his father, Ruben were arraigned on Thursday morning. The DA’s office is reportedly requesting a higher bail amount for Ruben Flores set at $250,000. Paul Flores remains in jail, held on zero bail for felony murder.