SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – It's been one year since Paul Flores was arrested for the 1996 murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart – the first major movement in the high-profile case in nearly 25 years.
Smart had been missing since May 1996 after she never returned to her dorm room at Cal Poly, leaving law enforcement and the San Luis Obispo community to search and investigate vigorously for a quarter of a century.
Flores, who was long considered to be the prime suspect in Smart's disappearance and is believed to be the last person to see Smart alive, was taken into custody and booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail on April 13, 2021.
Flores' father, Ruben Flores, was also arrested and is charged for being an accessory in the crime.
The Smart family at the time said that the day of arrest was a bittersweet day that they had been waiting for for over 24 years.
"It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family; we pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home. 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," the family released in a statement following the arrests.
"The knowledge that a father and son, despite our desperate pleas for help, could have withheld this horrible secret for nearly 25 years, denying us the chance to lay our daughter to rest, is an unrelenting and unforgiving pain. We now put our faith in the justice system and move forward, comforted in the knowledge that Kristin has been held in the hearts of so many and that she has not been forgotten."
Here's a look at all of the updates made in the case since:
- April 14, 2021: Just a day after the arrests, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow filed a felony murder charge against Paul Flores, also revealing that he is alleged to have killed smart during the commission of rape or during an attempted rape.
- April 19, 2021: Paul Flores pled not guilty to the first-degree murder charge when he appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court via Zoom. Ruben Flores also pled not guilty.
- April 22, 2021: The Smart family filed a civil suit against Ruben Flores, alleging that he moved Smart's body from his property in February 2020.
- June 30, 2021: The start date for a July 6 preliminary hearing in the murder case was delayed after Robert Sanger, Paul Flores' defense attorney, motioned to push back the original date as he was still waiting to receive evidence from the prosecution. A pre-preliminary hearing was instead set for July 6.
- July 6, 2021: San Luis Obispo County Judge Craig Van Rooyen announced that the Smart murder preliminary hearing will begin on July 20, with two more pre-preliminary hearings scheduled for July 12 and July 14.
- July 15, 2021: Newly released court documents revealed that human blood was found in soil under Ruben Flores' house during a search of his home in February 2020. The documents showed how prosecutors will try to prove that Paul killed Smart and that his father helped cover it up.
- Aug. 2, 2021: The preliminary hearing for Smart's murder began with emotional testimony from Kristin's mother, Denise Smart. Kristin's father, Stan Smart, also took the stand. Flores' mother, Susan Flores, invoked her Fifth Amendment right and said she will not testify in the hearings.
- Aug. 3, 2021: Smart's friend and dorm-mate, Steven Flemming, testified during the second day of the preliminary hearing. Flemming described Paul Flores as "creepy" and "weird," and also said that she had struggled academically before her disappearance. Paul Flores' defense attorney, Sanger, alleged that Smart was in danger of flunking out, after previously alleging that she may still be alive.
- Aug. 4, 2021: The third day of the preliminary hearings focused on the days and weeks following Smart's disappearance, with former lead investigator for the Cal Poly Police Department Lawrence Kennedy taking the stand for most of the day.
- Aug. 5, 2021: In an unexpected move from the Flores' defense team, arrangements were made to transport Scott Peterson – who was sentenced to death in 2005 for murdering his wife Laci and their unborn child (the death sentence was later overturned, but the conviction stands) – from San Quentin State Prison to testify as part of the hearing. The defense claimed that Peterson and Smart knew each other while they both attended Cal Poly.
- Aug. 12: 2021: Timothy Davis, one of the last people to see Smart alive before Paul Flores, took the stand to testify about his interactions with Smart and Flores on the night of her disappearance.
- Sept. 22, 2021: A landmark day in the Smart case. Judge van Rooyen determined that Paul Flores will stand trial for Smart's murder.
- Oct. 20, 2021: A trial date was set for April 25, 2022. Paul and Ruben Flores both entered not guilty pleas for the second time.
- Jan. 19, 2022: District Attorney Dow filed a motion opposing the defense's request to dismiss the murder charges filed against Paul Flores.
- March 9, 2022: Paul Flores' defense team filed a change of venue motion to move the trial outside of San Luis Obispo County, alleging that it would not be possible for Flores to receive a fair and impartial trial in the county due to the extensive media coverage and community commitment to the case, among other things.
- March 20, 2022: The District Attorney's Office filed an opposition to the change of venue request, saying that the defense did not provide adequate evidence.
- March 30, 2022: Judge van Rooyen sided with the defense and allowed the murder trial to be moved out of San Luis Obispo County.
- April 4, 2022: Judge van Rooyen announced that a new trial location will be selected on April 20, and a new trial date was set for May 31. However, that could be delayed as details surrounding the change of venue are worked out.