(Updated) The Murder Suspect Who Went Free For 25 Years

Kristin Smart was one of those awful true crime cases where everyone knows what happened. She was a student at California Polytechnic State University who disappeared after attending a party on campus on Memorial Day weekend, 1996. Everyone who knew the case thought the last guy to see her alive, Paul Flores, seemed pretty guilty. He had motive: he was known around campus as a creep and had previously been accused of sexual assault. He had the means and the opportunity: he was left alone with an inebriated Smart, and no one noticed she was missing over the long holiday weekend.

Paul Flores was not charged with Kristin’s murder until April 13, 2021. His father, Ruben Flores, was also arrested and charged with accessory to murder. For decades this Paul Flores got away with murder while Kristin’s murder was considered a cold case. San Luis Obispo Police credit the Your Own Backyard podcast with reinvigorating the investigation into Kristin’s murder and finding new leads for police to interview that eventually led to the arrests.

Now that Paul Flores has been in custody for a few months, new information on the investigation that led up to his arrest and details about Kristin’s disappearance are coming out. On July 14, 2021 both Paul Flores and his father had their first court appearances. What we learned provides insight into the mind of a killer and serial rapist, but warning: this info is not safe for life.

  • Police found rape porn on Paul Flores’ computer.
  • Police found videos of Paul Flores raping and sodomizing intoxicated women on his computer.
  • These rapes were not reported and police tracked the women down from the videos.
  • The file with the videos of Paul Flores raping women was titled “Practice”.
  • Police found drugs that can be used to sedate someone.
  • Police have a witness who heard Paul Flores say he planned to drug and rape a woman.
  • Police have four witnesses who will testify that Paul Flores raped them.
  • At least one of those victim’s rape kits were matched to Paul Flores through DNA.
  • Flores has a pattern of using a ball gag in his rapes.
  • Kristin Smart disappeared after being walked home by two classmates and Paul Flores. When the two classmates parted ways with Paul and Kristin, the female classmate declined to hug Paul. He responded, “Don’t worry, I have her.”
  • During the hearing the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office asked that Paul Flores be charged with two additional counts of rape of an intoxicated person for attacks that took place in 2011 and 2017.

And maybe grimmest of all things to come out of this case getting solved:

Even with the literal video evidence of Paul Flores being a rapist Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen denied the motion to add the two additional rape charges, and said evidence that Paul Flores raped Kristin Smart was “weak.” I feel like at this point we would need evidence that a serial rapist like Paul Flores, whose reputation and criminal record are of a man who serially rapes intoxicated women, didn’t sexually assault an intoxicated woman who we believe he murdered and buried in his parent’s yard. Why do we have to assume this improbable thing happened, which is that he murdered her without taking advantage of the opportunity to assault his favorite target, an intoxicated woman? The sleuths on r/UnresolvedMysteries are calling it a serial rape case.

The Your Own Backyard podcast that initially renewed interest in Kristin’s case has a more detailed writeup of the 7/14 hearing:

The next hearing will be on August 2, 2021.

Update 10.19.21: After a hearing which included 22 days of testimony, a San Luis Obispo County judge ruled that Paul Flores will officially stand trial for the murder of Kristin Smart. Ruben Flores will also be tried for his involvement in the crime and/or coverup.

One witness giving testimony was a woman named Jennifer Hudson who says Paul Flores confessed to her in 1996 that he murdered Kristin. According to Hudson, Paul told her: “I’m done playing with her and I put her out underneath my ramp.” It has long been suspected that initially at least, Kristin Smart’s body was buried under a concrete patio at the Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Prosecutors at the hearing also portrayed Paul Flores as a serial predator who “has raped so many women, it’s hard to keep track.'” Though the judge, Craig B. Van Rooyen, still says there is “no evidence” Smart was raped and declined to allow 2 rape charges (likely the filmed rapes police uncovered on Paul Flores computer during the investigation) to be added.

Paul and Ruben Flores are scheduled to make their next court appearance on Oct. 20, 2021.

About the author

Chrissy is the author of What I Didn't Post On Instagram and a poetry book, We Are All Just A Collection of Cords.

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