Kristin Smart case: ‘Prime suspect’ arrested on suspicion of murder in 1996 disappearance of California student

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — The “prime suspect” and former classmate of Kristin Smart, a California college student who disappeared nearly 25 years ago, was arrested on suspicion of murder Tuesday.

Paul Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Kristin Smart before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. Paul Flores is being held without bail. His father, Ruben Flores, 80, was arrested on suspicion of accessory after a felony at his Arroyo Grande home, where sheriff’s investigators conducted another search.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that the 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 said. “We will continue to focus on finding her remains regardless of any court action.”

Parkinson did confirm that physical evidence was found at two of the homes searched by San Luis Obispo County deputies. He said more than 41 search warrants were served across 16 locations since 2011.

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.

Smart, 19, of Stockton, California, vanished in May 1996 while returning to a dorm at Cal Poly after a party. She was seen with Paul Flores, who also was a student at the time.

A spokesman for the Smart family said “this is an extremely emotional day” and they would issue a statement later in the afternoon.

The news comes about a month after the sheriff named Paul Flores as the “prime suspect” in the case and investigators searched his father’s home and property in the city of Arroyo Grande, about 15 miles south of the university, using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs.

“Flores is the father of Paul Flores, who remains the prime suspect in the disappearance of Kristin Smart in 1996,” the statement said.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.