'Prime suspect' arrested in 1996 disappearance of California student

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow files a murder charge against Paul Flores in the disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart and answers questions about the process on Wednesday

Kristin Smart case: Former classmate arrested in 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow revealed a possible break in the case a day after the arrests of Paul and Ruben.

Prosecutors filed a first-degree murder charge against Paul Flores, 44, and an accessory after murder charge against his father, Ruben Flores, 80, for helping him hide Smart's body, which has never been found. Ruben Flores was jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m.at the Cal Poly campus to discuss "major developments in the investigation" into Smart's disappearance.

Paul Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Kristin Smart, 19, before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area on Tuesday (local time).

"Driving past that billboard was a periodic reminder that, oh yeah, they still haven't found that girl", Lambert said in a video posted on the podcast website. "We're concerned about sexual assault".

Search warrants were executed at Ruben Flores's home in Arroyo Grande, Calif., and Paul Flores's home in San Pedro after their arrests.

It was the third search targeting Paul Flores and his family in just over a year. She was inebriated at the time and Flores, a fellow freshman at the school, had offered to walk her home.

"These prior sexual acts include. incidents described in the investigative reports and audio/video provided to defense, and other alleged incidents of abuse, which will be provided as they are obtained by the prosecution", the document said.

The revelation that the alleged crime scene was in Paul Flores' dorm room highlighted one of those failures.

In 2017, Parkinson said that Sheriff's Office investigators talked to witnesses who had not been previously interviewed, learning some new information from the "Your Own Backyard" podcast that Chris Lambert produced. Dow called the task "obviously complicated and difficult" but not impossible, pointing to a recent conviction won by his office in the murder of an elderly woman whose remains were never recovered.

"The news today of the arrests in connection with the case bring sadness but also a measure of relief and hope for resolution", Armstrong said.

Her body was never found despite an extensive search effort including K-9 units, helicopters and ground-penetrating radar.

The "prime suspect" has been arrested in the 25-year-old disappearance of a Californian college student.

Flores has been under suspicion from the earliest days of Smart's disappearance.

"We have an ongoing conversation with Mr. Paul Flores' counsel and we're welcome to any conversation that they might want to bring to us", Dow said.

Dow urged the public to come forward with any information they may have about the killing or other crimes Paul Flores may have committed. His father, Ruben Flores, was arrested as an accessory to the crime.

"We don't have evidence to charge anyone else at this time", such as Paul Flores' mother, Susan Flores, Dow said. A spokesman for the district attorney's office didn't immediately return a request for comment. He would not disclose what evidence was found nor which two homes the evidence was found at.

Dow said he believes that San Luis Obispo County would be able to offer a fair jurisdiction to hold the trial locally, added that it's a decision a judge could have to make a a future ruling.

Parkinson held his news conference on the university campus, gesturing over his shoulder to the place nearby where Smart was last seen alive with Flores.

The Sheriff's Office also secured a court order for surveillance of Paul Flores' electronic communications, including cell phone and text message records, Parkinson said. In February 2020, his parents' and sister's homes were searched on the same day detectives searched Paul's home in San Pedro.