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San Luis Obispo County

From disappearance to arrest: the Kristin Smart timeline

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. – After more than two decades of unanswered questions, an arrest has been made in the disappearance of Kristin Smart.

Longtime 'person of interest' Paul Flores was arrested Tuesday and booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail for Smart's death. Flores' father, Ruben Flores, was also arrested as an accessory to the crime.

The arrests come nearly 25 years after Kristin Smart disappeared from the campus of Cal Poly.

Here is a timeline of the events, leading up to Tuesday's arrest. 

Kristin Smart Investigation Timeline (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff)

The investigation into Kristin Smart's disappearance stretches back nearly to May 25, 1996; Memorial Day weekend. 

Smart was a Cal Poly freshman who was last seen walking with Paul Flores to her dorm after a party off campus.

Investigators said she never made it to her room, friends and family never heard from her again.

2002

After a massive search and investigation, Smart was officially declared dead in 2002.

But the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office never labeled this a cold case and kept investigating.

2016

Fast forward to September 2016, when detectives and the FBI searched the hillside above Cal Poly's dorms near "the P" to no avail.

2019

In September 2019, a podcast launched by Chris Lambert titled, “Your Own Backyard,” brought renewed attention to the case.

Since then, the investigation has had several significant developments.

2020

Onto January 2020, when the Stockton Record reported Kristin's mother, Denise Smart, said she was told to expect a major update.

Then days later the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office said it had collected 140 new items of evidence since Sheriff Ian Parkinson took office in 2011.

Weeks later in February, the sheriff's office, the FBI and other agencies served four search warrants at Flores family homes, including Paul's San Pedro home, his parents' homes in Arroyo Grande and a fourth location in Washington state.

Kristin Smart Investigation since 2011

That was followed up in April 2020 with another search at Paul's home.

Last November, Smart's case got national attention, when it was profiled by 48 Hours on CBS.

2021

In February of this year, Paul Flores was arrested and released from LA Sheriff's custody on an unrelated gun charge.

In March, investigators returned to the Arroyo Grande home of Paul Flores's father, Ruben. This time, cadaver dogs and ground penetrating radar were used to search the property.

One car was towed away, but deputies did not reveal at the time if they had found anything during their search.

On Tuesday, the investigation was blown wide open. Paul Flores and Ruben Flores were arrested and booked into jail. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced Paul Flores was arrested for murder and he felt confident to prove Flores' guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Deputies returned again Tuesday to search the home of Ruben Flores.

Paul Flores has been arrested for the murder of Kristin Smart. His father, Ruben, was arrested as an accessory to the crime

Looking Into the Future

Both Paul Flores and Ruben Flores are due in court on Thursday.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said his office was "carefully reviewing the evidence" and said it will provide more information as it becomes available.


Community / Crime
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Karen Cruz-Orduña

Karen Cruz-Orduña is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Karen, click here.

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