Search Warrant Served in Smart Case

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 26, 2021

The SLO County Sheriff’s Department conducted a search at the Arroyo Grande home of Ruben Flores, the father of the prime suspect in the disappearance of Kristen Smart. Ground penetrating radar and cadaver dogs were used to search the property including under the deck.
Photo courtesy of the Sherriff’s Office

The County Sheriff’s Office last week conducted a search of the home of the father of the prime suspect in the Kristen Smart case, the department announced on March 15.
“The Sheriff’s Office,” spokesman Tony Cipolla said in a news release, “is announcing today that it has served a search warrant at the Arroyo Grande home of Ruben Flores. Flores is the father of Paul Flores, who remains the prime suspect in the disappearance of Kristin Smart in 1996.”
The search was to utilize cadaver dogs and ground penetrating radar (GPR), Cipolla said. “This process could potentially take one to two days to complete,” he added.
The search warrant was “sealed” he said, which prohibits the Sheriff’s Office from “disclosing any further details regarding it.”
“The Sheriff’s Office will not be commenting any further and no additional information will be released at this time.”
Paul Flores was a fellow Cal Poly student of Smart’s in 1996, when she disappeared without a trace after an off campus party wherein she got very intoxicated. Flores and another female student helped the 19-year old to the dorms, where the Stockton native lived.
Flores was the last known person to see her alive and came under suspicion shortly after her disappearance.
He’s been the only suspect in her disappearance over the life of the 25-year-old mystery. But her body has never been found, which is a big hindrance in closing the case.
One theory in the case has always been that he had help in disposing of her body. Flores’ mother’s A.G. home has been searched in the recent past including use of GPR.
A few years ago, the Sheriff’s Department conducted an extensive search of the hillside under the Cal Poly “P”, a school landmark on the hill behind the dorms.
Forensic archeologists assisted in that search and the Sheriff’s Department has not said what if any evidence was uncovered.
The Smart case has received much media attention over the past quarter century, including spots on various crime TV shows and an ongoing podcast called “Your Own Backyard” by Chris Lambert, who is credited with keeping the case alive.
Flores, meanwhile, was recently arrested and charged with weapons violations that were allegedly discovered during a search of his home in Southern California in connection with the Smart case.
Memorials to Smart have been erected, including an overlook spot at Dinosaur Point Park in Pismo Beach.

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