Red Flags Weren't Enough To Charge Classmate In College Freshman's Disappearance

Paul Flores is a suspect in Kristen Smart's disappearance 20 years ago, but he's never been charged.

By Jaime Lutz

Kristin Smart’s disappearance 20 years ago was just too bizarre for only one episode of Oxygen's Murderers and Martinis podcast—so here's part two.

The Cal Poly freshman was last seen being walked back to her dorm after a party by another student named Paul Flores. When investigators talked to him later, he had a number of inconsistencies in his story, according to the Los Angeles Times—and three cadaver dogs who were walked through the dorm by handlers who had no information about the case specifically barked at his room. Flores, it's important to note, has always maintained his innocence and he has never been charged in the disappearance, though he remains a person of interest. On the most recent episode, we take a look at why he was never arrested—and who, exactly, he is.

The Suit

Smart’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Flores in 1997 that included a subpoena for the sheriff’s records on the case, according to an article by the San Luis Obispo Tribune

But the lawsuit went nowhere—in large part because there is no known evidence linking Flores to Kristin's disappearance, but also because after initially cooperating with investigators Flores has refused to speak about the case, which remains open to this day. 

“This is an open and active investigation,” a spokesman from the sheriff’s office said to the Tribune in its 2015 article. “This has never been considered a cold case, never been closed, and we can’t comment on our investigative tactics.”

Flores, meanwhile, responded to every question—even simple ones like whether or not he was on medication, or what his address was—the same way, according to The Los Angeles Times: “On the advice of my attorney I refuse to answer that question based on the fifth amendment of the United States Constitution.”

He has continued his silence to this day—even when reporters from The Daily Beast tracked Flores down outside his house last year, he only responded to their questions with answers like “I’m good.”

Flores In College

Flores was not a popular freshman when he attended Cal Poly as a freshman, according to the Times. His classmates reportedly called him “annoying” and said he had no friends; male students accused him of hitting on their girlfriends.

He was even allegedly spotted aggressively trying to pick up another girl—in full view of her boyfriend—the night Smart went missing

One college girl told police that he had climbed up the trellis outside her window and wouldn’t leave her balcony; he was gone by the time the cops arrived.

Recent Developments

Even despite all the suspicion around Flores, he had never been charged in the disappearance, and Smart’s body has never been found, despite ongoing developments in the case. Last September, based on a tip, the FBI spent five days digging up a hill in San Luis Obispo and found “items of interest” in Smart’s disappearance, but it hasn’t made any of the specifics of these finds public and Oxygen's call to the Sheriff's office was not returned. 

“Ultimately it will be up to the sheriff to make a determination if we release that information to the public because we have a criminal investigation that is ongoing and the sheriff does not want to jeopardize that case,” a spokesman for the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office toldThe Los Angeles Times.

In the meantime, any definitive answers about what happened to Smart are mostly just speculation. Is her body in a landfill? Is her body buried in the hills near the Cal Poly campus? Is Flores completely innocent?

If you know the answers to any of these questions, contact the Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI at 310-477-6565. There’s a $75,000 reward for information leading to the location of Smart or her remains. 

(All photos: Getty Images)

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