Two men connected to the long-unsolved murder case of Kristin Smart have been arrested and charged, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced on Tuesday. Paul Flores, 44, who was a classmate of Smart's at California Polytechnic State University when she disappeared in 1996, was charged with one count of murder in Los Angeles; he is currently being held in San Luis Obispo without bail. Flores' father, Ruben Flores, 80, was also arrested; he was charged with one count of being an accessory to murder and his bail is set at $250,000.
Smart was a 19-year-old freshman at California Polytechnic State University when she disappeared on May 25, 1996. After attending a party at a nearby fraternity house, Smart was seen walking back to her dorm with a group of friends, including Flores. He was the last person to be seen with her prior to her disappearance. Smart's body was never found, and despite being a person of interest, Flores was never charged with her disappearance. Smart was legally declared dead in 2002.
Everything changed, though, when the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's office accessed a warrant to search Flores' home in Los Angeles twice last year. The first search in February, which occurred for reasons not made public, led to a second warrant for April, where police said they were looking for "items of interest" across California and Washington.
According to Tony Cipolla, a spokesperson for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's office, police "recovered some items of interest in the case" during the second search. The warrants, however, are still sealed, and no details on what was found in Flores' home can currently be made public.
Following Paul and Ruben Flores' arrests on Tuesday, Smart's parents released a public statement: "It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family; we pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home," the statement read. "While Kristin's loving spirit will always live in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates. The knowledge that a father and son, despite our desperate pleas for help, could have withheld this horrible secret for nearly 25 years, denying us the chance to lay our daughter to rest, is an unrelenting and unforgiving pain."
"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," the statement continued. "To HEAL, we must REMEMBER not only Kristin but also every heart that carried Kristin and our family in theirs!"