LOS ANGELES (AP) — The “prime suspect” was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder in the 25-year-old disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart.
Paul Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Smart on the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. His father, Ruben Flores, 80, was arrested as an accessory at his Arroyo Grande home, where sheriff’s investigators conducted their latest search for evidence.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said search warrants were sealed and so he could not disclose what evidence led to the arrests, but he said Smart’s remains were not found.
“We have not recovered Kristin,” he told a news conference. “We will continue to focus on finding her remains regardless of any court action.”
Smart, 19, of Stockton, vanished in May 1996 while returning to her dorm at Cal Poly after a party. She was seen with Flores, who was a student at the school at the time.
San Luis Obispo jail records showed Paul Flores was booked on a murder charge. Defense attorney Robert Sanger declined to comment, though he confirmed Flores was arrested.
Ruben Flores was booked on suspicion of accessory after a felony, according to jail records.
A spokesman released a statement from the Smart family and said “this is an extremely emotional day.”
The news comes about a month after the sheriff named Flores as the “prime suspect” in the case and investigators searched his father’s home and property using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs. The large home on a hill has been the subject of many searches.
Investigators executed another search warrant Tuesday at the home of Ruben Flores about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of the university on California’s Central Coast, KSBY-TV reported. They appeared to be disassembling a deck outside the home and the sound of power saws and drills could be heard whining in the background.
Search warrants were served last year on Paul Flores’ home in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles and at other locations in California and Washington state. Investigators conducted digs on the campus in 2016.
Paul Flores has remained mum through the years, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions before a grand jury and in a deposition for a lawsuit that was brought against him.
He was arrested in February on a weapons charge and released on bond. He has drunken driving convictions on his record in Los Angeles County.
FOX40 interviewed Smart’s mother, Denise Smart, in 2018 about her daughter’s case.
“I believe (Paul Flores) took her life,” Denise Smart told FOX40. “She did not walk away and go kill herself. She did not walk away and lose her life. She did not walk away and dig herself a grave. She was kidnapped.”