Two Men Arrested in The Murder of Kristin Smart

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Nearly twenty-five years since Kristin Smart vanished while walking home from an off-campus party at California Polytechnic Institute in San Luis Obispo, California, two men, a father and son, have been charged with her murder.

Paul Flores, 44, the last person to see Ms. Smart alive, "and whom investigators had declared in recent months to be a "prime suspect" in the case, was arrested at his home in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles on Tuesday and was charged with murder," The New York Times reported.

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His father, Ruben Flores, 80, who San Luis Obispo County sheriff allege helped dispose of the body, was charged as an accessory after the fact.

Kristin Denise Smart was last seen alive on May 25, 1996. At 6'1" she was hard to miss anywhere, and, on that night, she was seen walking back to her dorm on the Cal-Poly campus with the accused. Authorities believe she was killed in the commission of or an attempted rape and therefore the prosecutors are seeking first degree felony murder charges.

Dan Dow, the San Luis Obispo Prosecutor said, reported The New York Times, "What I can tell you, is that significant new information has come in to the Sheriff's Office that we've reviewed over the last two years, and some very important information just a month ago. We've got physical evidence, we have witness statements — things that, in our view, in the totality, have brought us to the point where we believe we can go forward and prosecute Mr. Flores for the murder of Kristin Smart."

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The accused has remained the primary suspect from the onset of the investigation. He also attended California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and was the last person seen with Ms. Smart. He has maintained his innocence.

Authorities believe the crime occurred in his dorm room. After her disappearance, the rugged terrain surrounding the university was searched. Cadaver dogs were sent to Mr. Flores dorm room. She had simply vanished. 

Ms. Smart was declared legally dead in 2002. In 2011, Ian Parkinson was sworn in as the new sheriff and intensified the efforts to find the person or persons responsible for Kristen's death and bring them to justice.

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The San Luis Obispo Sheriff and the FBI, to their credit, maintained a vigilance in pursuing leads and any information in the case. Over the last decade they continued to conduct interviews, which included many women who attested to Paul Flores' predatory behavior and detailed his 25 years as a serial rapist.

The authorities also executed search warrants and believed the remains of Kristin Smart were buried under the home of Ruben Flores and had recently been moved. His deteriorating health may have motivated him to remove the remains. 

The authorities also submitted new samples for DNA processing. The diligence and effort anchored the case and resulted, finally, in the arrests.

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"After 24 years we have finally brought justice for Kristin," said Sheriff Parkinson said in a released statement. "And hopefully some closure for the Smart family and peace to our community."

In a statement, the Smart family described the arrests as a "bittersweet day."

"It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family," the statement said. "We pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home." The family added, "We now put our faith in the justice system and move forward, comforted in the knowledge that Kristin has been held in the hearts of so many and that she has not been forgotten."

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