Sheriff’s Det. Clint Cole is retiring after 32 years with the County Sheriff’s Department. Photo submitted
The Sheriff’s Detective who helped deliver justice for a missing Cal Poly freshman after some 26 years, is retiring, the Sheriff’s Office announced.
Sheriff’s Det. Clint Cole will retire after 32 years with the department. His last day on the job is slated to be March 10.
That’s also the day that Paul Flores, who was recently convicted of murdering Kristen Smart, is scheduled for sentencing. Smart, the Cal Poly freshman who disappeared after an off-campus party in May 1996, has never been found.
“Detective Cole,” reads a news release from the Sheriff’s Department, “became the lead investigator in the Smart Case in 2019 and is credited with leading that investigation to a successful conclusion with the arrest of Flores on April 13, 2021 and his conviction on Oct. 18, 2022.”
It should be noted that Paul Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, was acquitted of conspiracy after the fact in helping his son hide Smart’s body. The two were tried together, though each had their own defense attorney and individual juries for the two cases. The trials of Paul and Ruben Flores were moved to Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas due to pretrial publicity and extensive media coverage, which spanned over 25 years.
The Sheriff was complimentary of the detective that cleared the books on one of the County’s most enigmatic cases. “I am extremely proud of the work Clint has done for this agency,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson said, “especially with regard to the Kristin Smart investigation. He has accomplished much in his 32-year career, and his retirement is well deserved.”
Cole started with the Sheriff’s Department as a Correctional deputy in 1990 and moved to Patrol in 1996. He was a School Resource Deputy from 2002 to 2014, the release said, as part of the Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit.
He was promoted to senior deputy in 2014 and in 2017 was “selected to be the first investigator assigned to the newly created position of Cold Case/Unsolved Homicide Detective.”
He got the Kristen Smart case in 2019 and led the reinvigorated efforts to solve that nagging mystery. Paul Flores has always been the one and only suspect in Smart’s disappearance.
“It is very satisfying to see Paul Flores convicted for the murder of Kristin Smart,” Det. Cole said. “I hope I’ve been able to give the Smart Family some measure of justice for Kristin.”
Det. Cole is credited with also solving three other high-profile homicides in SLO County — the 41-year-old murder cases of Jane Antunez and Patricia Dwyer in Atascadero; and assisting with the 2018 murder investigation of Nancy Woodrum in Paso Robles.
Cole credited his family, wife Kay and daughter, Audra, and his father John “for all their support during the long hours he worked on cases.” As for retirement plans, for right now he just plans “to relax” and spend more time with his family.