A California man who has long been considered a person of interest in the 1996 disappearance of college student Kristin Smart has been arrested on a weapons charge stemming from last year’s search of his property.
Paul Flores, 44, was taken into custody on Wednesday morning in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said Flores’ arrest was based on information obtained when his home was searched in April 2020 as part of the ongoing investigation into Kristin Smart’s disappearance.
Paul Flores, 44, has been arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm stemming from a DUI conviction. Pictured: Flores talking to deputy during a search of his home in Los Angeles in February 2020
Flores (pictured left in 1996) has long been considered a person of interest in the disappearance and presumed death of 19-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Kristin Smart in May 1996
KSBY reported that Flores has a past criminal record that includes a felony DUI conviction, making it illegal for him to own a firearm.
He was booked into the Los Angeles County Jail and was released on Thursday night after posting $35,000 bail, reported Los Angeles Times.
Flores was said to be the last person to be seen with Smart on the night of May 25, 1996, when the 19-year-old college student vanished while returning to a dorm at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, after an off-campus party.
He told police at the time that he walked Smart back from the party but parted ways with her about a block from her dorm.
In February and April 2020, deputies served search warrants at properties belonging to Flores and his family in connection with the Smart case
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators remove items from Flores’ home in February 2020
Flores was never officially named a suspect and was never charged in Smart’s case.
In late April 2020, sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at Flores’ home in the 900 block of West Upland Avenue, seeking ‘specific items of evidence.’
Flores’ home in the San Pedro district near Los Angeles harbor also was among four locations in California and Washington state where search warrants were previously served in February of that year.
In all, 19 search warrants have been served at various locations since 2011 in connection with the Smart case.
Back in February 2020, officers searched Flores’ home in Los Angeles County where he’s lived since 2010, and the residence of his mother, Susan Flores, in Arroyo Grande.
Sources told the Los Angeles Times at the time that investigators were trying to gather DNA and other physical evidence.
In January, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office announced that investigators seized two trucks that belonged to Flores’ family.
Authorities also searched Flores’ mother’s home in Arroyo Grande (pictured) in January 2020
They also revealed that 37 pieces of evidence from the early days of the investigation had been submitted for modern DNA testing.
Since 2011, investigators have recovered 140 new items of evidence, carried out 18 search warrants and conducted 91 interviews – racking up a bill of $62,000 in expenses related to the Smart case, the sheriff’s office said.
In addition to the warrants, investigators conducted digs on the California Polytechnic State University’ campus in San Luis Obispo in 2016.
At the time, an investigator said a lead strongly suggested her remains might be buried near a large concrete letter ‘P’ that is the school’s landmark.
The search ended with no trace of Smart’s remains.
Smart was reported missing two days after her disappearance by a friend, but a search didn’t begin until days later due to a miscommunication between authorities.
During the investigation, four different search dogs trained to pick up the smell of human remains led police to Flores’ dorm room.
Smart’s body was never recovered, but she was legally declared dead in 2002
By the time investigators searched the room on June 5, he had moved all of his belongings out and no evidence was found there.
Smart was officially declared dead in 2002 but her body has never been found.
Smart’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Flores in 2005, but the case has remained stagnant pending the conclusion of the criminal investigation.
In response to the suit, Flores has denied every allegation raised against him and invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination before a grand jury and a civil deposition.
He also filed an emotional distress lawsuit against Smart’s family.