She Vanished 20 Years Ago After A Party, Now The Case Is Finally Heating Up

The body of this beach-loving 6'1" blond Cal Poly student has never been found, but homicide seems likely.

By Jaime Lutz

Kristin Denise Smart disappeared in 1996—and more than 20 years later, authorities still aren’t sure what happened to her. She is the topic of the next two episodes of our new podcast Martinis & Murder, hosted by Daryn Carp and John Thrasher

On Memorial Day weekend, the beautiful college student had gone to a kegger off-campus from her school, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, with three of her friends. Her friends decided not to go to the party, so she went alone.

There, she possibly drank tequila (though some students said she wasn’t holding any drinks), but also appeared to be “on something.” A senior who helped throw the party saw her passed out on the lawn at 2 a.m. 

Investigators and arm chair detectives have since considered that she may have been roofied. It was the last night she was seen alive.

The Walk Back To Her Dorm

Tim Davis, the senior who saw Smart passed out on the lawn, offered to walk her back to her dorm, along with fellow students Cheryl Anderson and Paul Flores. Anderson and Flores ended up being the ones to take her, because they had to head in the same direction. 

As Anderson went back to her dorm, Flores, according to The Los Angeles Times, allegedly asked her for a kiss. She refused, thinking this was creepy. She asked Flores to continue the responsibility of walking Smart back to her room by himself.

According to The Times, Flores told investigators they left each other near his own dorm, and then she was never seen again.

Paul Flores

Flores’ behavior following Smart’s disappearance was unusual, according to reporting by The Los Angeles Times. He had a black eye that he told police he got at a pickup basketball game on Sunday; a friend said he had it on Sunday, and another friend said that Flores had told him he had “just woken up” with the black eye—no cause. Flores later changed his story for police and said that he had gotten the black eye while hitting himself on the steering wheel of his dad’s truck.

Kristin Smart graduating from high school.

He told police, according to The Times, that he had gone straight to bed; later, he admitted that he had taken a shower around 5am that morning.

He also agreed to take a polygraph test, only to eventually, and repeatedly, refuse it. When being interviewed by the police, he was agitated, and at one point, according to The Times, said: “if you’re so smart, then tell me where the body is.” After that interview, his mother got him a lawyer.

The dogs

Police brought a team of cadaver dogs to the Cal Poly campus a month later while undertaking a large-scale search of the campus. Without the dog handlers knowing any details about the case, The Times reported that all of the dogs barked at the door of Flores’s room, and were drawn to a corner where Flores’s mattress had been.

Experts estimate that cadaver dogs are accurate 95 percent of the time, according to the Post-Standard, but their use doesn’t always hold up in court, where their testimony can be picked apart by experts explaining that we still don’t really know why dogs react as they do. Such was the trouble here: “Dogs can’t testify in court,” investigators reportedly said, according to the Times.

To this day, Flores has never been charged in the case—but according to The Washinton Post, he was still a person of interest as of 2016.

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