Disappearance of Kristin Smart

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Kristin Smart
Kristinsmart.jpg
Smart in March 1995
Born
Kristin Denise Smart[1]

(1977-02-20)February 20, 1977
DisappearedMay 25, 1996 (aged 19)
San Luis Obispo, California, U.S.
StatusMissing for 26 years, 2 months and 15 days; declared dead in absentia on May 25, 2002(2002-05-25) (aged 25)
NationalityAmerican
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[2][3][4][5]
Parents
  • Stan Smart (father)
  • Denise Smart (mother)

Kristin Denise Smart (born February 20, 1977[1][6]–declared legally dead May 25, 2002) was an American woman who is presumed to have been abducted, raped, and murdered at the end of her freshman year on the campus of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly).

On May 25, 1996, 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 proximity of his dorm to Smart's. Flores told the other two students he would get Kristin home safely. Smart was never seen again, and searches conducted between 1996 and 2007 yielded no trace of her.

Smart's disappearance resulted in state legislation, including the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act, a bill which requires all public colleges and publicly funded educational institutions in California to have their security services make agreements with local police departments regarding 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, 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". Their trial began in July 2022.

Background[edit]

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 Stockton's Lincoln High School in 1995.[2] Before her disappearance, she worked as a lifeguard and camp counselor at Camp Mokuleia in Hawaii.[7]

Disappearance[edit]

Smart enrolled at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1996. On the night of May 25, 1996, which fell on Memorial Day weekend, she attended a birthday party where she didn't know anyone at a fraternity house. Her friend did not want to attend the party, so she dropped her off.[8]

At approximately 2 a.m. Smart 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 Flores, who lived closer to Smart's dorm, assured Anderson that he could walk her there.[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. Smart did not have any money or credit cards at the time she went missing.[12]

Official investigation[edit]

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. She was only reported missing after a week, despite her family calling the police earlier.

Several volunteers searched for Smart. 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, an earring that might have belonged to Smart 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's home, but had recently been removed. Biological evidence was found by using ground penetrating radar and cadaver dogs.[21]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Smart was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002, the sixth anniversary of her disappearance.[22] In 2005, her parents, Denise and Stan Smart, filed 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. The suit was dropped due to lack of evidence after Flores pled the Fifth amendment. In 2006 or 2007, the Flores family filed a lawsuit against the Smart family for emotional distress, but the lawsuit never resulted in a judgment.[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 ten 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 twelve 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, 2020, 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] Among the items found in the search were date rape drugs and homemade videos showing Flores sodomizing and raping young women.[38]

On February 11, 2021, KSBY reported that Paul Flores had been 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.[39] On March 15, 2021, a search warrant was issued to search Ruben Flores's 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.[40] 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.[41][42] 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 murder charges.[43][44] In September 2021 a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence of guilt for the case to proceed to trial.[45] The trial was set to begin on April 25, 2022, but was delayed, as a change of venue motion by the defense was granted on March 30, 2022.[46] The case was moved to Monterey County, where it is being heard by Judge Jennifer O'Keefe. Pretrial motions were heard on June 6 & 7, 2022, with some ruled upon and other rulings deferred. Over 1500 jury summonses were sent to County residents. Jury selection began on June 13, and opening arguments began on July 18.[47] The trial is expected to last until October,[48] and Lambert is planning on producing podcasts summarizing the proceedings on a weekly basis.[48]

Aftermath[edit]

Legislation[edit]

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[edit]

Citations[edit]

  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. Archived from the original on April 14, 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's 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 (January 6, 2020). "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. ^ Velie, Karen (July 15, 2021). "Paul Flores' sex life revealed, numerous rapes alleged". CalCoastNews.com. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  39. ^ "Paul Flores, person-of-interest in Kristin Smart case, arrested on weapons charge in Southern California". KSBY. February 11, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  40. ^ "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.
  41. ^ "Live: Paul Flores arrested in connection with Kristin Smart case". KSBY. April 13, 2021. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ "Kristin Smart, who disappeared in 1996, may have been raped and killed in a college dorm, prosecutor says". CNN News.
  45. ^ Velie, Karen (December 30, 2021). "Flores' lawyer files a motion to dismiss Kristin Smart murder charges". CalCoastNews.com. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  46. ^ "Kristin Smart Murder Trial Likely Delayed While New Venue Sought". gvwire.com. March 31, 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  47. ^ "Kristin Smart was 'too nice' to her killer, prosecutors say in opening statements". July 18, 2022.
  48. ^ a b "Kristin Smart case: Jury selection gets underway for Paul Flores' trial after it's moved 126 miles". Los Angeles Times. June 13, 2022.

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