Kristin Smart: When Did the California College Student Disappear?

Kristin Smart
A sign that helps with public awareness in case involving MISSING Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Smart. (Photo Credits: Don Kelsen | Getty Images)
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Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of murder and assault. Reader discretion is advised.

Kristin Smart was a freshman at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and was reported missing on May 28, 1996. She disappeared after she was last seen at approximately 2 a.m. on May 25, 1996, when she was walking back to her dorm room from an off-campus party. Paul Flores, a student who accompanied her said that he dropped her off one block away from her dorm before he headed to his own. However, Kristin never returned to her dorm room or ever contacted any friends or family after that, according to FBI records.

After a month of her disappearance, helicopters were used to thoroughly search the campus. Authorities allegedly made sure all remote parts of it were covered. Reminders to turn in assignments and her personal belongings were among the only things found in her room. Cadaver dogs were sent to search Paul Flores’ room, the New York Times reported.

A couple of days after Kristin Smart disappeared, Paul Flores went to the Arroyo Grande Police Department owing to an outstanding DUI warning. In a mug shot that was taken there, Flores was seen to have a black eye. He offered three inconsistent stories regarding how he was hurt. According to CBS News, women at Cal Poly reportedly nicknamed Paul, “Chester the Molester,” as he was known to have groped many girls on campus.

In October 1996, Mary Lassiter was renting Paul Flores’ mother’s house in Arroyo Grande. She found a single earring that reportedly matched Kristin Smart’s necklace which she was wearing on one of the missing posters. However, the earring was turned in to a detective and was allegedly lost before it could be considered evidence.

Who was convicted of killing Kristin Smart?

In March 2021, the backyard of the home was searched in a series of searches that had been happening for a decade. This time, authorities found biological evidence that led to the arrest of Paul Flores. He was charged with murder, and his father Ruben Flores was charged with being an accessory to the crime.

Paul Flores who was the last person to see Kristin Smart was convicted of first-degree murder of Smart on October 18, 2022. The verdict was announced 26 years after Smart disappeared. Prosecutors argued that Flores killed Kristin during an attempted rape in his dorm room. Both of them were first-year students at the time. Flores was 45 years old when he was found guilty. He was sentenced in 2023, to 25 years to life in prison, CBS News reported.

Paul’s father Ruben Flores was found not guilty of being an accessory to the murder. He was initially accused of helping his son conceal the crime. Authorities accused him of helping Paul bury Kristin Smart behind his home in the Arroyo Grande community. They also alleged that he then removed the remains and moved them to a different location. Ruben Flores was 81 years old at the time of his acquittal.

Kristin Smart’s remains have never been found. In January 2024, NBC News reported that Smart’s family is suing California University. They accused the institution of negligence, wrongful death, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The family also alleges that complaints about Paul Flores’ harassing, threatening, and stalking behavior that were brought to the university’s notice before Kristin’s disappearance were not thoroughly investigated.

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