Home Features Cal Poly student Kristin Smart case update

Cal Poly student Kristin Smart case update

Kristin Smart billboard in Arroyo Grande, Calif. Photo by Leah Monson

It’s been nearly 25 years since Cal Poly student Kristin Smart went missing in 1996 after last being seen walking back home from a party on campus, and the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s department has officially taken a suspect into custody.

On April 13, the SLO County sheriff’s department arrested prime suspect Paul Flores on a murder charge, along with his father Ruben Flores as an accessory to the murder. Paul Flores has been the primary suspect in Smart’s disappearance as he was the last person seen with her prior to her being reported missing. Despite the allegations, there was no physical evidence for prosecutors to charge Flores until now.

After Smart’s family declared their daughter legally dead in 2002, there were no updates in the investigation despite the case being actively open. According to a press release from the SLO County Sheriff’s Office, there wasn’t any movement in the case until 2019, when a new witness came forward and was interviewed by detectives.

Coincidentally, Chris Lambert’s podcast, “Your Own Backyard,” came out in 2019, greatly increasing media coverage of the case.

In February, 2020, the SLO County sheriff’s department served search warrants for four residences, and after finding “items of interest,” they served another search warrant for Paul Flores’ residence.

Most recently, investigators took cadaver dogs and ground penetrating radar to Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande in March to conduct a search of the premises. Both Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested and charged less than a month later after physical evidence was obtained from the property.

Their arraignment was set for April 19, where both men pleaded not guilty to their respective charges. The day of the arraignment, Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen chose to move forward with defense attorney Robert Sanger’s motion for a protective order. This protective order bars many persons’ involved with the case, or working within the courtroom, from publicly making comments regarding the case. 

Sanger felt that with the high amount of publicity, his defendant wouldn’t be ensured a fair trial, and Judge van Rooyen agreed. 

CBS’ “48 Hours” updated their episode on Smart’s case to include new information and footage from news conferences in April. In the newest episode of “The Disappearance of Kristin Smart,” reporters claimed information about the case had leaked out despite the protective order being put in place.

According to a county probation bail report obtained by The San Luis Obispo Tribune, there was biological evidence found below Reuben Flores deck.

The Smart family’s attorney, James Murphy, recently filed a civil lawsuit against Ruben Flores for the intentional infliction of emotional distress with “explosive claims” in regard to the alleged movement of the remains. 

“He threw her in a hole for 24 years, and sipped his morning coffee on the deck,” Murphy said, when explaining the reasoning for the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Murphy alleges there were two individuals who helped Ruben Flores hide the body under the deck. After a search warrant was conducted, biological evidence was found in February, 2020. An eye witness documented the activity underneath the deck, and released it to Chris Lambert as an anonymous tip.

“I’m not at liberty to describe how it was documented, but I’ve seen it,” Murphy said, in regards to the documentation.

Ruben Flores was released after posting $50,000 bail. Paul Flores is still being held without any bail. A preliminary hearing for the case is set for July 6, 2021.

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Aubrie Arndt is currently a journalism student at Cuesta college, and is taking on the role as Editor-in-Chief here at The Cuestonian this semester. Originally from San Diego, she only moved to San Luis Obispo a little over two years ago after going through a major life change. She didn't decide to go back to school until the semester that COVID-19 broke out, and although challenging it is a decision she's glad she stuck with. Throughout her time at Cuesta she has been on the school newspaper multiple semesters, and taken a variety of photography classes. Outside of the classroom she dabbles with film photography, and recently even started selling prints of her work online. She also wrote for her own blog for several years and is bringing it back this Fall as a healthy outlet for her to share some of her passions, and has even had a bit of poetry published on online magazines. With a past in working with social media, marketing, and branding she's hoping to start putting out freelance work for a variety of publications this coming year. There are many things she'd like to accomplish in the next year, and is hopeful she will also be able to relocate to the Bay Area for school depending on how the pandemic evolves. Until then you can find her sharing her work online, out on solo road trips in her native state, taking photos with her favorite film cameras in tow, or hiding out at home watching films with her two feline companions.


  1. I just don’t understand why ruban rhe father didn’t stay in jail instead of him going on bail and he out here and it was not right for him to treat someone like that and threatening to cause harm and told lies that are not true and has killed the victim and she is alive and was not breathing if may hours before she wake up and its not right and she need justice now and pay the victim of what she has gone through and not let them get away with doing this to any one else

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