Disappearance of Kristin Smart

Kristin Smart
Smart in March 1995
Kristin Denise Smart[1]

(1977-02-20)February 20, 1977
DisappearedMay 25, 1996 (aged 19)
San Luis Obispo, California, U.S.
StatusMissing for 25 years and 19 days; declared dead in absentia on May 25, 2002(2002-05-25) (aged 25)
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[2][3] or 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[4][5]
  • Stan Smart (father)
  • Denise Smart (mother)

Kristin Denise Smart (born February 20, 1977,[1][6] legally presumed dead May 25, 2002) was an American woman who is presumed to have been abducted, raped and killed at the end of her freshman year of college on the campus of California Polytechnic State University. Three fellow students escorted Smart back to her hall of residence after an off-campus party; two of them asked the third, Paul Flores, to complete the trip. After Flores completed the trip with Smart, she was never seen again.

On May 25, 1996, at California Polytechnic State University, Smart attended a birthday party of a friend. At approximately 2 a.m., she was found passed out on a neighbor's lawn, and two students helped her walk to her dorm room. A third student named Paul Flores joined the group due to the close proximity of his dorm to Smart's. Paul Flores told the other two students he would get Kristin home safely. This was the last known sighting of her.

Originally, authorities believed she was on an unannounced vacation. Between 1996 and 2007, there were various searches for her, with none being successful in finding her.

Her disappearance resulted in state legislation, including the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act, a bill which requires all public colleges and publicly funded educational institutions to have their security services make agreements with local police departments about reporting cases involving or possibly involving violence against students, including missing students. The bill was passed unanimously by the California State Legislature and was signed into law by governor Pete Wilson.

On April 13, 2021, Paul Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, were arrested and taken into custody on suspicion of Smart's disappearance. Their homes were searched, and investigators found numerous "items of interest".


Kristin Denise Smart was born February 20, 1977, in Augsburg, Bavaria, West Germany, to Stan and Denise Smart, both teachers to children of American military personnel.[2] She had one brother and one sister.[2] When she was a child, Smart moved with her family to Stockton, California. She attended and graduated from Lincoln High School in Stockton, California in 1995.[2] Before her disappearance, she worked as a lifeguard and camp counselor at Camp Mokuleia, Hawaii.[7]


Kristin Smart enrolled at California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, California in 1996. On the night she disappeared, which fell on Memorial Day weekend, on May 25, 1996, she attended a birthday party for a friend at a fraternity house. Her friends did not want to attend the party, so they dropped her off.[8]

At approximately 2 a.m. she was found passed out on a neighbor's lawn by two fellow students, Cheryl Anderson and Tim Davis, who both had just left the party.[8][9] They helped Smart to her feet and decided to walk her back to her nearby dormitory. Another student from the party, Paul Flores, joined their group and offered to help the two return Smart to her dorm room.

Davis departed the group first since he lived off campus and had driven to the party. Anderson was the second to depart the group, heading to Sierra Madre Hall, after she told Flores that he could walk Smart back to her dorm, since he lived closer.[10] Flores stated to police that he walked Smart as far as his dormitory, Santa Lucia Hall, and then allowed her to walk back to her Muir Hall dorm by herself.[11] This was the last known sighting of her. She did not have any money or credit cards at the time she went missing.[12]

Official investigation

The University Police Department[13] originally suspected that Smart had gone on an unannounced vacation, as was common among students over the holidays, and as a result were slow in reporting her as a missing person to local law enforcement.

Several volunteers searched for her. Some of them were riding horses, and some used ground-penetrating radar devices.[8]

During the Laci Peterson murder investigation, there were unfounded rumors in the media that Laci's husband Scott Peterson had something to do with Smart's disappearance due to their simultaneous attendance at the Cal Poly campus.[14] There was a brief initial inquiry into whether Peterson was tied to the disappearance, with Peterson denying any involvement, and he was eventually ruled out as a suspect by police.[15]

Although her body was never discovered, what might have been Smart's earring was found by a tenant at the former residence of Paul Flores's mother. This earring was not marked as evidence and has since been lost by the police.[16] Between 1996 and 2007, various searches for her remains and other evidence were conducted, some using cadaver dogs trained to detect the scent of human remains, including searches of properties owned by the Flores family. No useful leads were found for nearly two decades.[17]

On September 6, 2016, officials from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office announced they were investigating a new lead in the case.[18] Cadaver dogs from the FBI were brought in and investigators were preparing to spend approximately four days excavating an area on the Cal Poly campus.[18] After three days, items were found at all three dig sites located on the same hillside near Smart's dorm. A spokesman for the sheriff's office said, "The items are being analyzed to see whether they are connected to the case, which could take days, weeks or months".[19] The items uncovered are still being investigated as of 2020.[20]

On April 20, 2021, it was announced by the prosecutor that they believe Kristin's body had been buried beneath the deck of Ruben Flores' home, but had recently been removed. Biological evidence was found by using ground penetrating radar and cadaver dogs.[21]

Legal proceedings

Smart was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002, the sixth anniversary of her disappearance.[22] In 2005, her parents, Denise and Stan Smart, took a civil case of wrongful death against Flores, one of the three students who walked Smart to her dorm. The Smart family was represented by James R Murphy,[23] on a pro bono basis. Flores denied any involvement in the disappearance. The Flores family had also filed a lawsuit against the Smart family for emotional distress.[17]

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office regularly reviewed the case, and spent thousands of hours and dollars during the period 2011–2016.[24] The FBI have her on file as a high priority missing person investigation, with a reward of $75,000 for information leading to finding her or resolving her case.[25] Terry Black, a Delta-area man, offered a $100,000 reward for Smart's body.[26]

Beginning September 30, 2019, musician Chris Lambert released a series of eight podcast episodes.[27] The podcast recounts, in detail, Kristin's probable abduction and subsequent death at the hands of another student on the campus of California Polytechnic State University over 24 years ago. The podcast has been downloaded over ten million times. Renewed public interest led to a new billboard being put up in Arroyo Grande in January 2020 to replace the original, which had been up since 1997.[28]

On January 18, 2020, the Stockton Record reported that the FBI informed Smart's family that additional news about her disappearance would be coming and that the family "might want to get away for a while" but did not provide any specific information. However, on January 22, 2020, The Record issued a correction: the FBI did not contact the Smart family; rather, a retired FBI agent who had been in contact with the family for years was the source of the advice.[29][30] On January 29, the San Luis Obispo police department confirmed that two trucks owned by Flores had been taken in as evidence.[31] On February 5, 2020, search warrants were served for "specific items of evidence" at four different locations – two in San Luis Obispo, one in Washington state, and at a home in Los Angeles County.[32] Flores was briefly detained during the search.[33][34][35]

On April 22, 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that a search warrant was served at the home of Paul Flores in San Pedro, California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department assisted detectives from San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Department in the search.[36] It was reported that numerous "items of interest" were successfully found during the search.[37] The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department is now continuing the investigation but no further public information is available at this time. Those items of interest included computer towers, cell phones, and electronics decades old.

On February 11, 2021, KSBY reported that Paul Flores was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is a felony.[38] On March 15, 2021, a search warrant was issued to search Ruben Flores' home, including the use of cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar. An older-model Volkswagen was towed from the home of Ruben Flores after cadaver dogs searched the vehicle.[39] On April 13, 2021, Paul Flores and his father Ruben Flores were taken into custody by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department in relation to the case. Paul Flores was charged with murder; Ruben Flores was charged with being an accessory.[40][41] Investigations later concluded that Paul Flores attempted to rape Smart, although Dan Dow, District Attorney of the County of San Luis Obispo, has stated that the statute of limitations has expired on a sexual assault charge, but murder committed in the course of rape or attempted rape justified first-degree felony charges.[42][43]



Smart's disappearance and slow response by the campus police resulted in the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act being written and sponsored by State Senator Mike Thompson, passed 61–0 by the California State Legislature, and signed into effect by then-Governor Pete Wilson on August 19, 1998. The law took effect on January 1, 1999, and requires all public colleges and publicly funded educational institutions to have their security services make agreements with local police departments about reporting cases involving or possibly involving violence against students, including missing students.

See also


  1. ^ a b "1652DFCA – Kristin Denise Smart". www.doenetwork.org. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Mitchell 2003, p. 16.
  3. ^ 20 years after Kristin Smart vanished, authorities unearth ‘items of interest’ in campus dig
  4. ^ Who was Kristin Smart? The missing Cal Poly student was happy, energetic and always smiling, Visalia Times-Delta
  5. ^ Missing Person: Kristin Denise Smart, FBI
  6. ^ "Kristin Denise Smart – The Charley Project". charleyproject.org. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  7. ^ Who was Kristin?
  8. ^ a b c "The long, twisted, frustrating road to an arrest in the disappearance of Kristin Smart". Los Angeles Times. April 13, 2021. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  9. ^ Winton, Richard (September 7, 2016). "Cal Poly student Kristin Smart vanished 20 years ago. Now, authorities are digging the campus for her body". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  10. ^ Townsend, Catherine (September 8, 2016). "A New Investigation Into The Disappearance of Kristin Smart, Who Vanished From Her College Campus 20 Years Ago - CrimeFeed". CrimeFeed. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  11. ^ "Where is Kristin Smart? 19 years later, Cal Poly student still missing". Mustang News Staff. Mustang News. May 28, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  12. ^ Ellis, Ralph (September 7, 2016). "A break in a cold case on Cal Poly campus". CNN. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  13. ^ "University Police Department". Cal Poly, Administration & Finance. California Polytechnic State University.
  14. ^ "Search for missing woman fruitless". USA Today. Associated Press. January 18, 2003. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  15. ^ "No link found to missing student". modbee. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  16. ^ "The Kristin Smart disappearance". CBS. November 27, 2020. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  17. ^ a b Lambert, Cynthia (September 7, 2016). "Searches for Kristin Smart spanned from Cal Poly to Paul Flores' home". The Tribune. San Luis Obispo. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  18. ^ a b Scholl, Claire (September 6, 2016). "SLO County Sheriff, FBI Begin Excavation at Cal Poly campus in Search for Missing Kristin Smart". KEYT. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  19. ^ Morgan Winsor; Roger Lee; Kayna Whitworth (September 9, 2016). "Kristin Smart's Family Is Cautiously Hopeful as Excavation Begins at Cal Poly". ABC News. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  20. ^ Matt Fountain (March 3, 2017). "Kristin Smart investigation continues 6 months after Cal Poly excavation". The Tribune. Retrieved August 8, 2017.
  21. ^ "Document: Kristin Smart once buried in suspect's backyard". news.yahoo.com. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
  22. ^ ABC News. "Laci Presence Hangs Over Kristin Smart". ABC News. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  23. ^ "Smart v. Flores". James R. Murphy, Jr., A Law Corporation. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  24. ^ "Sheriff's detectives searching for Kristin Smart's remains at Cal Poly". Paso Robles Daily News. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  25. ^ Carlton, April (May 31, 2016). "Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart missing for 20 years". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved October 8, 2016. offers a $75,000 reward for information
  26. ^ Thompson, Ellen (May 24, 2007). "Family hopes for break in Smart case". recordnet.com. Retrieved September 7, 2016. Delta-area resident Terry Black has offered a $100,000 reward in the case, despite not knowing the Smart family personally.
  27. ^ SLO Tribune. "Kristin Smart podcast details missing Cal Poly student's case". SLO Tribune. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  28. ^ KSBY News. "Arroyo Grande business donates new billboard for Kristin Smart". KSBY News. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  29. ^ Highfill, Bob (January 18, 2020). "Could answers be coming in Kristin Smart's disappearance?". Stockton Record. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "FBI reportedly tells mom of woman missing since 1996 to "be ready" for unexpected news". www.cbsnews.com.
  31. ^ Leslie, Kaytlyn; Fountain, Matt (January 29, 2020). "Kristin Smart update: SLO sheriff confirms 2 key pieces of evidence in missing person case". The Tribune. San Luis Obispo, California. Archived from the original on January 30, 2020.
  32. ^ Burke, Minyvonne; Blankstein, Andrew; Li, David K. (February 5, 2020). "Search warrants served in 1996 disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart". NBC News. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  33. ^ "Classmate of Kristin Smart Briefly Detained, Police Search Home Decades After Her Disappearance". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  34. ^ "Paul Flores detained in disappearance of Kristin Smart". Cal Coast News. February 5, 2020. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  35. ^ Levenson, Michael (February 5, 2020). "'Items of Interest' Recovered in Case of Kristin Smart, Missing Since 1996 (Published 2020)". The New York Times.
  36. ^ "Kristin Smart cold case: New warrant served at San Pedro home of former classmate". Los Angeles Times. April 22, 2020.
  37. ^ Paul Vercammen, Stella Chan and Theresa Waldrop. "Kristin Smart case: Investigators find 'items of interest' in home search". CNN. Retrieved August 24, 2020.
  38. ^ "Paul Flores, person-of-interest in Kristin Smart case, arrested on weapons charge in Southern California". KSBY. February 11, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  39. ^ "Sheriff's deputies search Paul Flores's family home in Arroyo Grande with cadaver dogs, ground-penetrating radar". KSBY. March 15, 2021. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  40. ^ "Live: Paul Flores arrested in connection with Kristin Smart case". KSBY. April 13, 2021. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  41. ^ Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk (April 13, 2021). "'Prime suspect,' his father charged in 1996 disappearance, murder of student Kristin Smart". WPXI.com. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  42. ^ Diaz, Johnny (April 14, 2021). "Kristin Smart Was Killed During Attempted Rape, Prosecutor Says". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  43. ^ "Kristin Smart, who disappeared in 1996, may have been raped and killed in a college dorm, prosecutor says". CNN News.


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