Officers search family home of person of interest in 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart

Authorities used cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar
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Posted at 10:58 AM, Mar 16, 2021

Authorities in California served a search warrant Monday at a home belonging to a family member of Paul Flores, a longtime person of interest in the disappearance of Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly student.

And for the first time, investigators officially called Paul Flores the "prime suspect" in the Smart case.

Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996 after returning to campus from a fraternity party in San Luis Obispo. Witnesses said Paul Flores was the last person to be seen with her.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office began searching the yard of Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande on Monday. Ruben is Paul's father. Investigators were using cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) in their search, according to sheriff’s officials.

Investigators primarily focused their search on the backyard and lower deck. Crews used radar to canvas the property and could be seen going underneath the house with the mechanism and the dogs.

During the search, a vehicle was towed from the home. It was a 1985 Volkswagen registered to Ruben and Susan Flores, according to the DMV.

It’s unclear what evidence was found at the locations, if any. However, deputies were expected to continue their search Tuesday.

Susan Flores drove by the house with Ruben Flores to get Ruben's mail around 5:30 p.m. Shortly before, Susan’s boyfriend could be seen driving by the area as well.

Last month, Paul Flores was arrested in Los Angeles County on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Sheriff’s officials said that arrest came as a result of information obtained during searches of his San Pedro home in February and April of 2020, when investigators were reportedly looking for items of interest in the Smart case.

The February 2020 investigation also included searches at the two Arroyo Grande homes of Flores’s parents, and his sister’s home in Washington state.

Sheriff’s officials say the current search could take a couple of days to complete and traffic in the area may be impacted.

Officials say the search warrant is sealed and no other information on the “active and ongoing investigation” will be released at this time.

Following the news of Monday’s search, the Smart family released the following statement:

“We are encouraged by the news of today’s search of Ruben Flores’ property. We appreciate the vigilance and professionalism of Sheriff Ian Parkinson and his department and our family looks forward to learning more in the hours and days ahead.”

This story was originally published by Megan Healy and other staff at KSBY.

This story was originally published by Megan Healy and other staff at KSBY.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said Ruben Flores was the person of interest in the Kristin Smart case, when it should have said Paul Flores is.