Authorities Tuesday arrested a San Pedro resident, a longtime person of interest in the 1996 disappearance of his former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo classmate Kristin Smart, according to multiple media reports.
Paul Flores, long described as a “prime suspect” by authorities, was taken into custody by San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s officials, according to the Los Angeles Times, KSBY, a television station that covers the Central Coast, and CNN.
John Segale, a Smart family spokesperson, told CNN that the family was notified by law enforcement officials that Flores and his father were arrested Tuesday morning.
“Given that this is an extremely emotional day, the Smart family will not be conducting any interviews and will not be meeting with any reporters today or in the foreseeable future,” Segale said in a statement.
Ruben Flores, 80, of Arroyo Grande, was booked on suspicion of being an accessory, with bail set at $250,000, San Luis Obispo jail records show. No booking information was listed as of mid-morning for his son, who was reportedly arrested in San Pedro and was being driven to San Luis Obispo.
A 2 p.m. news conference is planned by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson to discuss “major developments in the investigation into the disappearance of Kristin Smart,” the sheriff’s department said Tuesday morning in a Twitter post.
Flores, who in the past has denied any wrongdoing, was the last person seen with Smart before she disappeared. Smart, then 19, was on her way home from an off-campus party. Flores was seen walking on a path to the college dormitories with her the night she went missing.
Flores, who was questioned about Smart’s disappearance at the time, has lived for more than a decade in San Pedro, where authorities served a search warrant at his Upland Avenue home last April in a quest “for specific items of evidence” related to the investigation into Smart’s disappearance, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department spokesman said then.
In February 2020, search warrants were served in San Pedro, San Luis Obispo County and Washington state, but authorities declined to provide specifics about the nature of the searches.
In 2016, federal investigators dug up a hillside near the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, looking for remains. They also searched the yard of a home.
Smart’s family has sued Flores in civil court. He invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before a grand jury and in a civil deposition.
Since 2011, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s office has served search warrants, conducted physical evidence searches, submitted evidence items from the early days of the case for modern DNA testing, recovered more than 100 new items of evidence, conducted more than 90 in-person interviews and written more than 360 supplemental reports, according to media reports.
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