A man connected to the 1996 disappearance of college student Kristin Smart was arrested on a murder charge Tuesday, according to California authorities.
At a press conference Tuesday San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced that Paul Flores was arrested and charged with one count of murder in connection with Smart’s disappearance.
Flores, 44, was arrested in San Pedro, California, in Los Angeles County and transported to San Luis Obispo County, Parkinson said.
Paul Flores’ bail is set at “zero,” which means he is not currently eligible for bail, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a Tuesday press conference.
Kristin Smart, who in 1996 was a 19-year-old student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, disappeared after going to a party. Flores, who was Smart’s friend, reportedly walked her home from the party.
Smart was never found and declared dead in 2002.
Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, 80, was also arrested on Tuesday. The elder Flores was charged with one count of being an accessory after the fact and bail was set at $250,000.
An attorney representing Flores, Sarah Sanger, told NBC News their firm will not comment on pending cases. Harold Mesick, attorney for Ruben Flores, declined to comment because he has not yet been able to contact his client.
Flores was long considered a “person of interest” in the case, which received renewed attention as the subject of true crime podcast Your Own Backyard.
“Throughout our investigation Paul Flores has remained a person of significant interest,” Sheriff Parkinson said at Tuesday’s press conference, and “as the case progressed became a suspect and the prime suspect in the case.”
An area near the Cal Poly campus where Smart was a student was excavated in 2016. In 2020, a Flores home in Los Angeles County was searched, NBC News reported, as well as other locations on the West Coast.
On Tuesday, Parkinson revealed that his office interviewed more people in 2019 and said that many came to light thanks to “the podcast”.
Another warrant was served in March 2021 in Arroyo Grande at the home of Ruben Flores, Sheriff Parkinson said.
“As a result of this evidence, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge signed two arrest warrants and two additional search warrants,” Parkinson said.
The father and son were arrested simultaneously in Los Angeles County and in San Luis Obispo County early Tuesday Parkinson said.
“We have not recovered Kristin,” Parkinson said, later adding that he commited to Smart’s parents that “we are not going to stop until Kristin is recovered.”
Speaking after Sheriff Parkinson, Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Denise and Dan Smart, all of Kristin’s friends and family as this process proceeds.”
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