Authorities say they've recovered "items of interest," from the home of a former classmate of Kristin Smart, the California teen whose 1996 disappearance has flummoxed investigators for more than two decades.
The San Luis Obispo Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday that a search warrant had been served at the Los Angeles County home of Paul Flores, who they described as a "person of interest" in Smart's disappearance.
Smart, a California Polytechnic State University student, vanished after being escorted to her dorm by Flores following a college party in 1996. He was the last person to see Smart, but has never officially been charged in her disappearance and he has always maintained his innocence.
Tony Cipolla, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office, told CNN that a prior February search at Flores' home led to the recent warrant.
"The search is now concluded and we recovered some items of interest in the case," he said. "We are following up on leads, tips and good investigative work."
It’s not clear what items investigators took or looked at and the sheriff’s department said in their press release that they will not be disclosing further details about the search.
A Facebook page for the recent "Your Own Backyard" podcast — which focuses on the Smart case — posted footage, which first aired on KTLA 5, of apparent aerial shots of the search at Flores' home Wednesday. The footage shows a forensic services tent erected in the home’s backyard as well as several investigators. San Luis Obispo County officials said they were assisted in the search by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities previously served search warrants at four locations in California and Washington state back in February, including Flores home. Wednesday’s warrant “only involved the home of Paul Flores,” the sheriff's office stated.
Flores has long been a person of interest in the case. He had a black eye the day after Smart’s disappearance and scent dogs trained to recognize the smell of human remains led investigators to his dorm room, though no evidence was found there, a 1998 San Francisco Examiner story reported. The "Your Own Backyard" podcast has researched and discussed at length the possibility of Flores being involved in Smart’s disappearance.
"When I first started researching this case back in 2018, things had been quiet for several years. I don't know everything that was going on behind the scenes, but I know that the public was not being updated," the podcast's creator Chris Lambert told Oxygen.com on Wednesday. "Now, in just the past three months, five search warrants have been executed at the homes of members of the Flores family, and all of them were announced by press release."
"That's the kind of movement this case has deserved for a long time. A lot of mistakes were made in the initial investigation, but I'm glad to see that the current San Luis Obispo Sheriff's administration is working to correct them," Lambert said.
Investigators announced in January that they confiscated two trucks with ties to his family. Then, in February, the homes of Flores and his mother were among the locations searched in California and Washington, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported at the time.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s request for further comment on Wednesday.
The FBI told Oxygen.com Wednesday that they were not involved with the most recent search. They were involved in previous searches in February.
Smart was legally declared dead in 2002.
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