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Former classmate arrested in 1996 disappearance of college student Kristin Smart

Nearly 25 years after 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart vanished while walking back to her dorm, a former classmate, Paul Flores, 44, has been charged with one count of murder in connection with her disappearance.

Flores’ father, Ruben Ricardo Flores, 80, was also arrested on Tuesday and accused of helping his son dispose of Smart’s remains.

Smart, a freshman at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, disappeared in May 1996 after attending a party. Witnesses said Paul Flores said he would make sure she made it safely back to her dorm, but Smart was never seen again. Classmates described Flores as awkward and unpopular, the Los Angeles Times reports, and during questioning from authorities, he admitted to lying about how he got a black eye. Investigators used search dogs and radar equipment to try to find Smart’s body, but her remains have never been discovered. She was declared dead in 2002.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson told reporters on Tuesday that new evidence in the case was secured in 2016, and in 2019, after hearing a podcast about the Smart case, witnesses came forward and were interviewed for the first time by authorities. Search warrants were issued for the home of Flores, his father, his mother, and his sister, and during a second search of Flores’ home, physical evidence “related to the murder of Kristin Smart” was found, Parkinson said.

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An attorney for Paul Flores declined to comment, while an attorney for Ruben Flores told the Times his client is “absolutely innocent.” Parkinson said police will continue to look for Smart’s remains, and in a statement, her family said they hope the arrests of Paul and Ruben Flores will be “the first step to bringing our daughter home.”