By David Smallwood
Updated: July 25, 2018
“Good news, good news! I’ll call on Sunday” was the voice message left by Kristin Smart on the family’s answering machine Friday, May 24, 1996. Kristin did not call Sunday, and would never call again.
This is a sad story about a young woman with her whole life in front of her who vanished one Saturday morning from the campus of California Polytechnic State University (“Cal Poly”) in San Luis Obispo, California. At the heart of the story is a family who have been mourning her loss for seventeen years.
When parents lose their own flesh and blood, the grief from the loss cannot be described. But, to lose a child under these circumstances, with so many unanswered questions and lack of closure, is beyond what any parent should ever experience. Stan and Denise Smart, parents who have suffered for nearly two decades, continue to fight for justice today.
Kristin Smart has never been found. Another young woman with a similar name, Elizabeth Smart — (no relation to Kristin), was found in Sandy, Utah. Elizabeth was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom and found alive, eighteen miles from her home, nine months later. Kristin Smart never came home, and was never found. The Smart family has been waiting many years to hear the truth of how and why Kristin disappeared.
WHAT HAPPENED TO KRISTIN?
Logic supports the theory that Kristin Smart died on campus in the early morning hours of May 25, 1996. Her death may have been caused, or it may have been a tragic accident. There are different kinds of accidents, however. Some accidents are innocent and unforeseen. Some accidents happen because of carelessness. Some accidents happen due to simple, gross, or wanton negligence.
While conventional wisdom supports the theory that Kristin Smart died in the early morning hours of May 25, 1996, the exact details remain a mystery to this day. It’s logical to believe that something wrong happened that night, so wrong that one or more individuals felt it necessary to remove and discard Kristin’s body. The body may have been removed to hide damning evidence. Invaluable bodily evidence could have been discovered, such as: trauma to the body indicative of a fight, DNA left in or on the body, or traces of chemicals, such as a date-rape drug.
The likelihood that nothing bad happened and no one was guilty of any misconduct is difficult to believe for most people, but especially for parents that lost their child. Was Kristin a victim of foul play that resulted in the loss of her life–perhaps an incident so bad that whoever was involved felt compelled to dispose of her body, and hide the evidence of their wrongdoing?
We start with what we believe to be facts derived from sources deemed credible. With that in mind, we ask our readers to keep a very open mind and maintain the presumption of innocence. The burden of proof lies on him who asserts, not on him who denies. When this rule is applied to the criminal process, it places the burden of proof upon the accuser, which has the corollary that the accused is presumed to be innocent.
Just as those suspected of criminal misconduct have protections, so too do media outlets like this newspaper. The public has a right to know as much as possible about anyone’s disappearance, even if there was not enough evidence to bring the prime suspect to trial. We have done our best to provide readers a clear, accurate picture of what transpired before and after Kristin’s disappearance. We ask all readers to continue to have faith that our law enforcement representatives will solve this case, find Kristin, and bring all those involved with her disappearance to justice.
This story isn’t just about Kristin. Kristin’s disappearance from the Cal Poly campus reveals a disappointingly pathetic initial response by authorities. Her disappearance exposed a systemic apathy by people and agencies across many levels. Some people where overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness; others, it seems, wanted the story to just go away, rather than be solved.
We ask all people who hear of this story to be concerned. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected, are as outraged as those who are.” Discovery of what really happened that evening and the location of Kristin’s remains would bring closure to not only her family, but the San Luis Obispo community as well. Anyone who might have information about this case should contact the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s office ASAP.
If you prefer to remain anonymous, you can leave an anonymous tip at KristinSmart.com. Your information will be passed along to the investigators handling the case. Even though it’s been seventeen years, this case can still be solved. Do not hesitate to share any information.
For what it’s worth, my speculation on what happened to Kristin Smart can be found here.
CHRONOLOGY of EVENTS…
June 8, 1995 – Kristin Smart Graduates from Lincoln High School in Stockton, California. She is accepted to California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo for the 1995-96 school year.
December, 1995 – Cal Poly student Paul Flores is apprehended, but not arrested, by the San Luis Obispo Police. He is suspected of being a peeping tom or attempting a break-in of a coed’s off-campus apartment by climbing her balcony. Police advise him to leave. He appears to be intoxicated. It appears that San Luis Obispo Police Department did not notify the Cal Poly Police Department of this incident.
March 27, 1996 – A crime report is filed by the San Luis Police Department concerning harassing phone calls to an off-campus apartment where three coeds resided. They report to police they had been receiving phone calls for six weeks. At times there were as many as eight calls in a row. The caller says nothing and hangs up after the coed says hello. The victims suspect it is Paul Flores making the calls, because he was apprehended climbing up their balcony in December.
Friday, May 24, 1996 – It’s the Friday of a three-day Memorial Day weekend. Kristin always makes a habit of calling home every Sunday night to speak with her family. Kristin decides to call her parents on Friday evening because she has good news to share. With no one home, she leaves a message on her parent’s voice recorder.
Kristin’s mother, Denise Smart, later stated: “I kind of thought the good news might be about a missing final examination being found by her biology professor. This meant Kristin would not have to take her examination over again which was certainly ‘good news’.” Denise said, “When we missed her call, we figured she would call back Sunday like she always did.”
Sunday came and went without a call, but since it was a three-day holiday weekend, they figured she would call on Monday evening instead.
When Denise Smart finally got a call on Monday evening, it wasn’t Kristin; it was the campus police inquiring if Kristin was with her parents. It’s the call that all parents dread. Upon hanging up the phone, Denise feared her daughter was in terrible trouble, but little did she know that Kristin may have died on Saturday morning, two days before they received the call from campus police.
Friday, May 24, 1996 — Going to A Party —
Kristin and three girlfriends left their dorms at Cal Poly heading for fraternity row to find a party. Kristin had heard Ryan “Swampy” Fell was celebrating his birthday at 135 Crandall Way, just off campus. Spring was in the air. The high temperature that Friday was 80 degrees. Most everyone wore clothes that would allow maximum absorption of the sun’s rays. Kristin was dressed in black running shorts with a cropped T-shirt and red athletic shoes.
At about 8:30 p.m., Kristin and her three companions were walking from the dorms when they flagged down a friend in a pickup truck. Kristin climbed into the cab and the others jumped in the back. For a few hours they cruised the streets around campus until Kristin suggested they swing by 135 Crandall Way. Kristin’s companions did not want to go to that particular party. (Certain party venues in any college town develop reputations for rowdy behavior, where the atmosphere created is what Peter King of the LA Times called “a mix of testosterone and tap beer that make female students less than comfortable.”)
Later that evening, they dropped Kristin off a couple of blocks from the party house and went home. None of them, including Kristin, had been drinking. Her friend, Margarita Campos, said – “When we dropped her off, she seemed a little mad that we wouldn’t go with her. She kept saying, ‘ You go with me,’ but I didn’t want to go. I told her, ‘You better be careful,’ and she said she would be fine. Then she said ‘Bye.’ ”
It was a typical college party: a keg of beer, some hard stuff, a stereo and a bunch of college kids. Stories are wildly varied about whether Kristin was drinking at the party. Some say Kristin was chugging vodka, others say she wasn’t drinking at all. This probably indicates most of the party participants were drinking and no one had a clear memory of who was drinking and who was not.
Among those attending the party:
Cheryl Anderson – Cal Poly student acquainted with Kristin. She lived in a campus dormitory.
Paul Flores – Cal Poly student and Food Science major, Paul Flores lived on campus in room #128 of Santa Lucia Hall Dormitory. Kristin Smart and Paul Flores were briefly seen speaking to each other during the party. Paul owns a home in San Pedro, CA, and since Kristin disappeared has held numerous jobs.
Matt Manzer – Cal Poly student, and the eventual husband of Cheryl Anderson.
Tim Davis – A Cal Poly student who lived off campus. Davis said he heard a loud noise in the hallway and saw Paul Flores on top of Kristin. It all appeared innocent and there was an exchange of light humor as they both got up off the floor. Witnesses said Paul Flores was hitting on several girls that evening, including women who were there with their boyfriends. This fact alone calls into question Paul’s common sense and impulse control.
Early Morning Hours Saturday, May 25, 1996
1:30 – 2:00 am
Swampy’s birthday party began to break up and the party-goers started walking back to campus. According to witness accounts, Kristin had left the party, and went to lie down on the lawn of the next door neighbor’s home at 137 Crandall Way.
Cheryl Anderson looked for friends to accompany her back to the dorms, but couldn’t find the people she was hunting for. Tim Davis offered to walk back to campus with Cheryl. His car was parked in a campus lot, which was in the same direction of Cheryl’s dormitory.
Cheryl, who was not a close friend of Kristin’s, noticed Kristin lying down in the grass of the neighbor’s home and pulled her to her feet so Kristin could walk back with them. The unusually warm Friday saw temperatures plunge 30 degrees. Kristin was not dressed for the cool night air and said she was cold. At approximately 2 am, Tim, Cheryl and a staggering Kristin began to slowly make their way back to the Cal Poly campus and their respective dormitories.
FLORES OFFERS TO HELP WALK KRISTIN BACK TO HER DORM
After a few steps, Paul Flores approached the trio from behind and offered to help walk Kristin back to the dormitory. Kristin was able to walk on her own, but leaned on Paul for support. With his arm around her, and her arm around his neck, they walked at slow, steady pace up Crandall Way. The four students then cut behind the recreation center to Perimeter Avenue on campus. Near Perimeter Avenue, Tim Davis said goodnight and headed towards his car leaving Cheryl, Kristin, and Paul continuing a slow walk to the dorms.
In her deposition, Cheryl testified that Kristin and Paul would occasionally stop. Paul, holding Kristin, would tell Cheryl to “go ahead if you want.” She thought this was “a little strange” and waited for them to catch up. Paul attempting to get Cheryl to leave him alone with Kristin happened repeatedly throughout the walk.
AT THE FORK IN THE ROAD, THREE BECOME TWO
The trio reached the campus intersection of Perimeter and Grand Ave. Cheryl’s dorm was half a block south down Grand Ave. Santa Lucia Hall where Paul lived, was about seventy-five yards up Perimeter Road. Just behind it, was Muir Hall, where Kristin lived. At this point, Cheryl split off from Paul and Kristin, to head for her own dorm room. Paul, according to Cheryl Anderson, promised he would see Kristin safely to her room. Then, strangely, Flores asked Cheryl for a departing kiss.
Anderson thought that was not only weird, but also disgusting, and abruptly declined. Paul then asked Cheryl for a hug; she turned him down again. Paul and Kristin then began to move slowly up Perimeter Road towards their dorms. Cheryl recalled that Paul Flores, who was at least three inches shorter than Kristin, with his arm around her waist and her arm around his neck, began walking toward their respective dormitories. Cheryl turned for her dorm (Sierra Madre Hall) and did not look back. As far as anyone knows, this was the last time anyone saw Kristin Smart alive – except for Paul Flores.
When Cheryl discovered that Kristin never got back to her dorm room, perhaps two days later when Kristin Calvin, Kristin’s roommate came back to discover Kristin was gone, she allegedly blurted out that she felt Paul had killed Kristin Smart. How and why she thought that is still unclear. It may have been merely women’s intuition kicking in.
GOLF CART & CAR COVER REPORTED STOLEN
Three items were reported stolen from the Cal Poly campus that weekend: an electric golf cart and two car-covers from vehicles behind Santa Lucia Hall. This particular golf cart was used by pizza vendors to distribute pizzas throughout campus. Some have speculated the electric golf cart was used to travel off campus in search of a pay phone. Remember, these were the days before cell phones were so prominent.
Others think Kristin could have been transported off campus in the cart. An electric golf cart would have been a perfect ride in this situation. They are quiet and designed to travel over grassy knolls and sidewalks, going where automobiles cannot easily travel.
After we published the first article on Kristin’s disappearance, some former students came forward admitting they stole the golf cart to go joy riding and the night Kristin disappeared the cart was in a private garage. The students said they ended up dumping the cart on Loomis street, off campus near Hwy 101. We don’t know if this is a truthful account, or some people calling on behalf of Paul Flores to throw us off the track.
Paul worked on campus for a department that used several golf carts and may have had access to the carts. As most golf caddies will tell you, the key “ignition” are generally not very secure, usually one key will operate any golf cart. Theorists believe the car cover(s) could have been used to possibly wrap Kristin’s body for transport and the golf cart used to get Kristin’s body off campus.
Whatever happened to the car covers and golf cart is up for discussion. To our knowledge, the car-covers were never found, but the golf cart was discovered by San Luis Obispo police. It’s interesting to note here that when the electric golf cart was returned to campus, some students who worked in the maintenance or transportation department were ordered by their supervisor to wash down the cart.
They thought that was odd because the cart, to them, appeared very clean. When the students were too slow at washing down the cart, the saw their supervisor out there with a bucket of soap scrubbing down the cart. This all according to one of the students who called this in years after the fact.
It’s likely that even though the cart may not have been used to move Kristin’s body, it’s possible that administrators at Cal Poly thought it may have been and wanted it cleaned immediately to destroy any potential evidence of a crime. It’s logical to view their behavior in this manner, because they went to great lengths to make sure there was no evidence found in Paul’s dorm room by first sanitizing it, then completely renovating it.
WE NEVER TALK ABOUT KRISTIN?
Strangely, in the same deposition, when Cheryl Anderson was asked what she and her friends, who were also at the party that night thought happened to Kristin, she said, “We never talked about it… It never comes up.” Do people that close to the mystery of Kristin’s disappearance never talk about it when they see each other? It seemed odd. The anonymous tip we received tends to suggest that immediately following Kristin’s disappearance, Cheryl Anderson was talking about it saying that Paul had killed Kristin and she was distraught for not doing more to protect Kristin that night.
What happened after Kristin and Paul walked into the night is not known to anyone but Paul Flores, and maybe his lawyers, family members and/or friends. No one has heard from Kristin Smart since that evening seventeen years ago. Most assume her to be deceased. In May 2002, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Roger Picquet drew the same conclusion, and legally declared Kristin Smart as deceased. How and why it happened is still a mystery. Attempts to get Paul Flores to tell people what happened that evening have only been met with Paul repeatedly citing the Fifth Amendment.
It’s strongly suspected by almost everyone associated with the case that Paul Flores knows exactly what happened to Kristin and where she can be found. People familiar with the case say early that fateful Saturday morning, Paul may have attempted to call the one person he knew he could trust, his father, Ruben Flores. Ruben lived on White Court in Arroyo Grande, California, which was approximately 15 miles from the Cal Poly campus. One theory says Paul placed a call from his dorm room in the wee morning hours of May 25, 1996, and may have received instructions to get off campus and use a pay phone.
That theory is supported by an off-the-cuff statement purportedly made by Ruben’s wife, Susan Flores, to her co-worker that same morning. Not knowing anything about what happened the night before, Susan Flores purportedly told a co-worker that something must have happened (last night), because right after her husband received a phone call in the middle of the night, he left the house like “a bat out of hell”.
The police, for some reason, didn’t feel communication between Paul’s dorm room (and/or pay phones in the area) and Ruben’s home in Arroyo Grande was important. If they had, authorities would have immediately obtained a subpoena for phone records that would have contained all calls to-and-from the Flores residence in Arroyo Grande on the night Kristin disappeared.
Kristin’s father and friends walked the campus to collect all the phone numbers to give to the Sheriff’s department to track. And yet, the police never requested phone records. The primary duty of the police is to prevent and investigate possible criminal activity. Police are to gather evidence for the district attorney. The common man would ask, “Why in the world did the police fail to seize what could have been vitally important evidence?”
Monday, May 27, 1996 – On a three-day Memorial Day weekend, it was not uncommon for students to “disappear”– either to go home for a few days, go mountain biking, or seek some other adventure. The three-day weekend did not help matters, because no one was really missing Kristin during the long three-day weekend. Yes, Kristin’s friends looked for her Saturday and then Sunday morning for breakfast. They did not become alarmed until they called the dorm adviser, who refused to open the door to investigate. It was not until Crystal Calvin (Kristin’s roommate), came back to campus that the first real warning flag went up. Crystal noticed the personal belongings Kristin normally carried with her everyday were still in the exact same place as they were on Friday when Crystal left. Crystal went throughout the dorm asking if anyone had seen Kristin. But, no one had seen Kristin since early Saturday morning.
Crystal became deeply concerned and made at least two phone calls to campus police to try to convince them something was wrong. Later that day, campus police finally called Kristin’s home in Stockton, California. Kristin’s mother was excited to hear the phone ring, believing it was Kristin calling to tell them about the “good news” referred to in Kristin’s message Friday night. Sadly, it wasn’t Kristin; it was the campus police asking if Kristin was at home with her parents.
KRISTIN’S DAD (Stan Smart) ARRIVES ON CAMPUS
Tuesday morning, Kristin’s father, Stan Smart, scrambled to make arrangements for some time off work, so he could investigate what might have happened to his daughter. He met with campus police and they shared very little information. To Mr. Smart, the campus police appeared untrained and qualified to find his daughter. He immediately began a search for Kristin over the following weeks and months. Many community members also assisted with these searches, and local businesses assisted with donated meals and lodging. The Smart family is still grateful for the outpouring of love and concern they received from many sympathetic community members.
Kristin’s close friend, Margarita, swung into action also by actively searching for Kristin and posting fliers. Margarita was friends with Tim Davis, one of the students who escorted Kristin home on Saturday morning. Margarita told Tim to call Kristin’s mother, that she was anxiously waiting. Kristin’s mother was very interested in asking Tim several questions. He promised Margarita he would call Kristin’s mother. It’s been seventeen years and Kristin’s parents are still waiting for Tim Davis to call.
Tuesday, May 28, 1996 – The Smart family tried to file a missing person’s report with the San Luis Obispo Police Department; they were told it was too soon. They made a second attempt to file a missing person’s report with the campus police department, but the San Luis Obispo Police told the Campus police that it was still too early to file a report.
PRECIOUS TIME WAS FLEETING
Weeks later, the initial missing person’s report was finally written up by Cal Poly police, and contained the statement: “Denise Smart stated her daughter went on a camping trip” This was a canard, an absolute lie. Denise Smart categorically denies she ever said that to anyone. It’s highly doubtful it was a simple mistake. More likely it was an overt attempt by college authorities to minimize their responsibility and lack of action regarding their initial response to Kristin’s disappearance. If the erroneous statement inserted into the missing person’s report was intentional, this is where the university goes from inept to corrupt. Was this a feeble and vile attempt to shift responsibility for the primary purpose of protecting Cal Poly’s good name? If so, this pathetic attempt to mitigate responsibility and point a finger of blame at a grieving mother was as despicable and contemptible as anyone could possibly get.
MORE THAN SIMPLE ERRORS
Nearly a week after Kristin disappeared, campus police finally begin to interview students suspected of having knowledge about what happened and where she could be found. All three students who escorted Kristin back to campus were brought in for questioning: Tim Davis, Cheryl Anderson, and Paul Flores. Flores was the last to see Kristin and came to the interview with a black eye with what appeared to be defensive scratches. After the interviews, campus police concluded there was no indication of foul play. Days passed without clues as to Kristin’s whereabouts.
One would think that if you had a missing coed, and the last person to see her had a black eye and defensive scratches, it would be prudent to investigate more aggressively. Logically, it seems you would seal off Paul’s room and Kristin’s room immediately until a Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team could examine both for any evidence relating to her disappearance. The CSI team would be looking for hairs, fibers, blood spots, etc.
But instead of implementing swift and aggressive action to safeguard possible evidence, campus authorities chose the opposite path. Either due to ineptitude or an overt effort to make the problem go away, campus authorities allowed cleaning crews to enter and sanitize the dorm rooms–including the room assigned to Paul Flores, room #128 in Santa Lucia Hall.
The first rule of investigation is to move swiftly and decisively to find out what really happened. But, even before that, the basic premise of “wanting to find the truth,” must be in place. The last thing any university wants to publicly admit is that a young, beautiful student was assaulted and murdered on university property, in one of their dormitories. We don’t know if that actually happened; and that’s the point. Had Cal Poly acted more responsibly, the truth quite probably would have been discovered seventeen years ago. Paul Flores and his family would not have to endure decades of suspicion. The Smart family would have not have been tormented with the lack of closure and a litany of unanswered questions. In order to find the truth, you must first want to find the truth.
Almost a month after Kristin disappeared, campus authorities finally realized the case was way “over their heads” and sought assistance from San Luis Obispo’s District Attorney. This was a mistake. The way our system of justice works is the police gather the evidence and submit their findings to the district attorney. If the DA feels the evidence is sufficient, he/she will proceed to trial. Why didn’t Cal Poly contact the sheriff’s office right away? Was there some sort of bad blood between Sheriff Ed Williams and the Cal Poly police unit?
It’s not clear if going to the DA’s office directly was a regulation or policy, but it seems the prudent thing would have been to immediately summon the sheriff’s office to investigate. The sheriff’s office has manpower and resources to aggressively investigate a missing Cal Poly student who was presumed to be a victim of foul-play. But, for one reason or another, campus police asked the district attorney for help instead of the sheriff’s office.
SAME FEW PEOPLE, MANY DIFFERENT STORIES
The first thing DA investigators did was to reexamine the transcripts from the interviews conducted by the campus police and call Tim, Cheryl, and Paul back in for another interview. The DA investigators discovered that students who knew Paul Flores noticed his black eye the day after Kristin’s disappearance. Because Paul Flores frequently wore shorts, one student noticed his knees were all scraped up too. Paul changed his story multiple times regarding how he received his injuries:
“I don’t know how I got the black eye,” Paul Flores allegedly said. “‘I just woke up with it.’”
In his first interview with campus police, Flores said he had watched Kristin walk up the path toward her dormitory before he entered his dorm. Investigators said Paul’s roommate heard a different version. His roommate, who had been away for the weekend, was told by Flores that he walked Kristin home and then came back to his room. The roommate, according to a police report, said he did joke with Flores about the case and asked Flores what he did with Kristin. Flores told his roommate words to this effect, “She’s home with my parents.” People close to the case say this was probably a truthful statement, that Kristin’s body was indeed, “home with his parents.”
It was reported that two days after Kristin disappeared, the Flores family poured concrete behind one of the homes they own. Many have theorized Kristin Smart is buried under a concrete slab in the back of the home belonging to the Flores family on East Branch St. in Arroyo Grande, California.
Initially, Flores agreed to submit to a polygraph test, but kept putting it off. Finally, the district attorney’s investigators picked up Flores and told him it was time for the test. The detectives purportedly said Flores turned white when he realized they were serious about hooking him up to a polygraph machine.
Flores was then taken to a conference room at the Arroyo Grande police station. He still balked at a lie detector test but did agree to an interview. The 90-minute session was videotaped. Paul admitted that, yes, he had gone into the dorm’s communal shower around 5 a.m. after becoming sick. (Was this an attempt to lay a foundation for an explanation, should the police discover traces of human vomit in his room?) Some have theorized Kristin may have thrown up, either from alcohol, or ingesting a date-rape drug.
Did she fight back against her assailant, and asphyxiated on her vomit? The videotaped interview showed Paul Flores regressing and curling up into a fetal position as if he was seeking protection. As the investigators pressed him, pointing out that Kristin had last been seen with him, he pulled his arms into his T-shirt, scrunched over at the waist in his chair, and lifted his feet off the floor. It seemed he was just about to tell the truth of what happened that night when the investigator asked him an overreaching question. In that one question, the investigator blew it.
Paul suddenly straightened up and snapped back, “If you are so smart, then tell me where the body is.” Then he got up from the interview and left the room. Paul issued a challenge to the police: if they were so smart, then find-the-body. Seventeen years later, Paul’s challenge to the police has gone unanswered. Law enforcement have yet to find out what happened and where Kristin’s remains are located.
ALMOST A MONTH AFTER KRISTIN DISAPPEARS
June 19, 1996 – Paul Flores is questioned by a detective with the district attorney’s office. “How do we know now, that you haven’t lied to us,” asked the detective. Paul responded by saying he didn’t feel his injuries (black eye and scratches) were that important. Flores told investigators that his black eye was caused by an elbow he received during a basketball game.
Investigators interviewed a friend who said Paul had the black eye on Sunday before the basketball game. People believe Paul may have been telling a partial truth: he could have received his black eye from Kristin’s elbow as she fought back against an unwanted sexual assault. There are many scenarios which could explain how Paul Flores received his black eye during the same weekend Kristin disappeared.
Paul Flores realized the basketball players wouldn’t validate his black eye story, so he recanted and changed his story yet again. This time, Paul stated he hit his eye on his steering wheel while installing a car stereo in his small pickup truck.
DO YOU SUPPOSE?
If Kristin died in a Cal Poly dorm room as many suspect, someone could have used a pickup truck like the one owned by Paul to move her body to a different location. Because of Paul’s DUI convictions, however, his truck may not have been on campus when Kristin disappeared. Some suspect Kristin’s body could have been moved with the electric golf cart.
Once again, law enforcement was moving at the “speed of light” to solve the case. Many months passed before investigators finally asked to see Paul’s pickup truck. As fate would have it, Paul said his pickup truck was stolen, and as far as anyone knows, he never reported to law enforcement his truck had been stolen. While failure to report a stolen vehicle is not any admission of guilt, his lack of prudent action is indeed strange.
If law enforcement thought Paul’s pickup truck was used to transport a dead body, they would have immediately impounded the truck, and inspected it with cadaver dogs right after Paul became a “person of interest.” Incredibly, the police took a year to even ask to see his vehicle. One begins to wonder, did law enforcement really want to solve this case? Do you suppose the police knew all along where that truck was but chose to accept Paul’s stolen truck response?
Some of the people we interviewed for this story strongly believe there was an active cover-up being orchestrated by power brokers in the San Luis Obispo community aided by the police themselves. If evidence cannot be found, the district attorney cannot bring charges resulting in a trial and weeks of embarrassing headlines for the university and the community of San Luis Obispo.
After the university attempted to sanitize Paul’s dorm room, the case is handed to the Sheriff
There have been three sheriffs (Williams, Hedges and Parkinson) since Kristin Smart disappeared. There have been three district attorneys and three presidents of Cal Poly since Kristin disappeared as well.
The current sheriff (Ian S. Parkinson) has been in office since January 1, 2011. If any district attorney takes someone to trial on thin evidence, which raises doubt in the mind of the jurors, the defendant could be found “not guilty” and could not be tried again for the same crime. Double jeopardy, as it is called, is a procedural defense forbidding a defendant from being tried again (for the same crime) following acquittal.
The district attorney back in 1996 apparently felt he needed more evidence, and the case was finally (and maybe reluctantly) handed off to SLO County Sheriff Ed Williams for further investigation.
Williams began by examining suspected areas on the Cal Poly campus, specifically the path to the dorm and the dormitory itself. Sheriff’s deputies brought in four cadaver dogs. Cadaver dogs are trained in detecting the odor of decomposing bodies. A well-trained grave detection dog can find human remains with nearly 100% accuracy. Their noses are so sensitive they can detect decaying bodies under running water, such as a river or stream, or entombed in concrete (especially older concrete where cracks allow odors to become more detectable).
There are three primary stages of decay: autolysis, decomposition and putrefaction. Autolysis, the first stage of decay, is more commonly known as “self-digestion,” during which the body’s cells are destroyed through the action of their own digestive enzymes. It’s the scent of these digestive enzymes the cadaver dogs quickly detect.
Even though Paul’s room had been sanitized by the dorm cleaning crews, cadaver dogs were taken to Santa Lucia Hall. Dog handlers were not told specifics of the case and escorted their dogs through the dormitory, one at a time. Each of the dogs independently alerted at the door of room number 128, the dorm room belonging to Paul Flores. They alerted, by barking and scratching. “She about broke her neck,” is how one handler described her dog’s alert on room #128. Once inside, each dog alerted independently at three specific areas: the edge of a bed where Paul slept, a wastepaper basket, and the telephone.
HARD FACT: police cadaver dogs each alerted independently on the scent of human remains in the room belonging to Paul Flores.
Crime scene investigators (CSIs) found no other clues because campus authorities had allowed the room to be cleaned and sanitized before the dogs were sent in. While the cadaver dogs were smelling traces of death, to some of us humans, it smelled of a cover-up attempt. Sending in a cleaning crew before the police could carefully examine the room did not seem to be done by mistake. The seriousness of an intentional act of covering up or destroying evidence in a crime scene where a murder may have occurred means someone or some organization may be guilty of being an accessory to murder after-the-fact.
After the cadaver dogs alerted at the three areas in Paul’s room, authorities had fairly high confidence that either a dead body was in room #128, or someone who had access to that room had touched a dead body and then touched the bed, wastepaper basket, and telephone. Under-sheriff Steve Bolts made the direct statement that at one time, there was a dead body in that room.
SEARCH #1 of 4, JULY 15, 1996
HOME OF RUBEN FLORES (PAUL’S FATHER)
WHITE COURT, ARROYO GRANDE, CA
Police decided to search the home of Paul’s father, since Paul frequently stayed with him when not at school. His father’s home address was Paul’s listed residence when he enrolled in Cal Poly. Officer Henry Stewart (badge #335) submitted an affidavit in support of and petition for a search warrant of the home belonging to Paul’s father Ruben Flores. This was the first of three searches on the two Flores-owned properties in Arroyo Grande: one located on White Court, where Paul’s parents lived at the time, and one on East Branch Street, which at the time of Kristin’s disappearance was vacant and generally used as a rental.
According to Kristin’s parents, the search of Ruben’s home was incomplete and inadequate. Deputies apparently walked around and asked a few questions. They found newspaper clippings about Kristin’s disappearance under a bed. While newspaper articles hidden under a bed could be suspicious, it’s not evidence of wrongdoing. For most juries to convict, they need to be convinced of someone’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means overwhelming circumstantial evidence, or hard evidence such as a body and/or murder weapon along with motive.
Note: People believe Ruben Flores was tipped off that a search of his residence was coming. It is suspected Ruben had close ties to the local police. If true, someone within law enforcement could have warned him a search was pending. There’s no information that an Internal Affairs (IA) investigation was ever conducted to determine if there was a leak and if so, who the leaker might have been.
The search at Ruben’s home may have been contrived. It could have been a show for Kristin’s parents to make them believe something was being done to find Kristin. Vehicles in the garage were not searched and no cadaver dogs were used. It was a lost opportunity and seemed to the Smart family that sheriff’s deputies were going through the motions and were not interested in discovering evidence.
Why in the world did police not use the opportunity to thoroughly search the property? This would include a possible full excavation, use of ground penetrating radar (GPR) equipment, and inspecting the cars visually and with highly-trained cadaver dogs? By failing to conduct a thorough search of the property, the police not only betrayed the Smart family (and every law-abiding citizen desiring of true justice), but they didn’t do the Flores family any favors either. For the past seventeen years Paul and the Flores family has been living under a dark cloud of suspicion. If Paul and members of his family are indeed innocent of any involvement in Kristin’s disappearance, a horrible injustice has been perpetrated against the Flores family by failing to remove this lingering cloud of suspicion.
November 26, 1996 – the Smart family filed a civil lawsuit against Paul Flores for the wrongful death of their daughter.
After he got an attorney, Paul refused to admit that he had even attended any party. During depositions, when the Smart’s attorney asked Flores, “Did you attend a party at or near the Cal Poly campus on May 25, 1996?” Paul responded, “On the advice of my attorney, I refuse to answer that question based on the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Without a body, murder weapon, motive, DNA evidence, witnesses, or even a person with a troubled conscience, the Smart’s civil case, just like the criminal case, hit a brick wall.
THE DISAPPEARING EARRING
After Kristin disappeared, it was all over the local news. A few weeks after Kristin disappeared, the tenant who had rented the Arroyo Grande East Branch Street home came forward to give police a turquoise earring she found in the driveway. The earring, allegedly, was placed in an evidence bag and marked as a potential exhibit.
For whatever reason, no one with the sheriff’s department told Kristin’s parents about the discovery of the earring. For one reason or another, they were keeping its existence and discovery quiet. Kristin’s parents heard about the earring for the first time when the tenant, during a court deposition, asked if the earring she found belonged to Kristin. Kristin’s parents, shocked, asked, “What earring are you talking about?” According to Kristin’s, mother, the description matched Kristin’s favorite pair of earrings, and in searching Kristin’s personal effects, the set was never found. It is therefore concluded that Kristin was probably wearing her favorite turquoise earrings on the night she disappeared.
The Smarts repeatedly asked the sheriff’s department to let them see the earring, but were stonewalled with each request. Exasperated, they drove four hours from Stockton, California and paid an unscheduled visit to the sheriff’s department for the express purpose of seeing the earring the tenant had given to investigators. The sheriff’s department told the Smarts they had “lost or misplaced” the earring.
The mysterious disappearance of potentially hard evidence and the stonewalling the Smarts received from the sheriff’s office, makes it hard not to believe there wasn’t some sort of active cover-up in effect. The importance of that earring cannot be understated. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have obtained convictions on the discovery of a microscopic hair or fiber. Things like one earring can be enough evidence to go to trial. Friends of the Smart family became highly suspicious of authorities after this hard piece of evidence suddenly came up missing. Did the earring fall off Kristin’s body while she was being transported?
Did the earring have blood or a fingerprint on it? We will never know because the sheriff’s office did not exercise enough professional care to safeguard a critical piece of hard evidence.Could that earring still be misfiled in the Sheriff’s evidence room? Or, was it made to “disappear” from sheriff’s evidence locker? Dear readers, please forgive my cynicism but it’s difficult to trust lawyers or governments these days.
The disappearance of this earring makes even the most trusting soul highly skeptical. Yes, it could have been just a poorly run evidence locker, but perhaps money was exchanged and the earring, like Kristin, simply vanished. Is this a case of the fox guarding the hen house? Who is going to investigate the investigators?
No investigation was ever conducted to determine under whose custody that earring disappeared. Without investigation, there is no culpability. We may never know if evil was at work behind the scenes to make the earring and the entire Kristin Smart case disappear.
November 14, 1997 – James Murphy, attorney for the Smart family filed a wrongful death suit against Paul Flores. On 11/14/97, approximately eighteen months after Kristin vanished, a deposition was held. Midway through the deposition, the opposing parties took a break. Kristin’s mother, Denise Smart, was overcome with grief and found a vacant conference room in which to sob openly. After finding a place to be alone, she began to weep uncontrollably. The harsh realization that her daughter was indeed gone forever enveloped her soul.
Paul’s father, Ruben Flores, followed her and opened the door to the conference room where Denise was sobbing. Ruben Flores stared at her for a moment, smiled, and he began to laugh, before walking out of the conference room.
SEARCH #2 of 4, (DATE UNKNOWN)
529 East Branch Street, Arroyo Grande
Home of the mother of Paul Flores (Susan Flores)
SEARCH WAS CONDUCTED UNDER A WARRANT
The details of this search are not know. It’s likely to have occurred during the Summer or Fall of 1996. Rumors had been floating around that cadaver dog(s) were utilized during the search, and that a dog did alert but that his alert was disregarded. Again, we only have rumor to go on concerning this and therefore not much credence can be given to any of this information.
SEARCH #3 of 4, June 20, 2000
Home of the mother of Paul Flores (Susan Flores)
SEARCH WAS CONDUCTED UNDER A WARRANT
Concrete was poured behind the East Branch St. home two days after Kristin disappeared, and before Paul Flores was considered a person of interest. Once again, moving at the speed of light, the police obtained a search warrant to search a home on East Branch Street in Arroyo Grande belonging to the Flores family.
Why this search took four years is a still a mystery. No tip came in at that time which would suddenly prompt a search at the East Branch Street location, and the evidence police used to obtain the warrant was available within days after Kristin disappeared. Was this just another contrived search to ensure that nothing substantial would be revealed?
The yard was never excavated, because according to the Sheriff’s Department, the warrant was too narrowly written to allow for them to dig up the yard. Retired FBI agent, Jack Schafer, who wrote the search warrant, had extensive experience doing so for the FBI. Schafer strongly disagreed explaining, “The first warrant authorized a dig. I know this because I provided most of the information for the warrant. I forced the warrant on a skeptical police force. I was told that the officers present did not want to pay to have the concrete repaired if the search turned up nothing. That was a lost opportunity.”
Bottom line: failing to excavate the yard was yet another blown opportunity to solve the case, alleviate the suffering of the Smart family, and allow the Flores family to prove once and for all that Kristin is not buried on their property.
The under-sheriff (at the time), said to allegedly be a Smart family supporter and one of the key players in the sheriff’s office, held a vote as to whether the police should dig up the Flores backyard or not. The vote was against digging up the yard. The under-sheriff confirmed this saying, “I was out-voted.” Local police commanders apparently preferred leadership by committee so that no one person can be held accountable if a mistake is made.
Instead of excavating, they relied on ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology, which was relatively new in those days and not nearly as effective as it is now. And, for some stupid reason, the police decided not to use cadaver dogs during the search. Did the police really want to find Kristin?
April 9, 2002 – Susan Flores committed assault and battery on Smart family supporter, Dennis Mahon. Mahon was carrying a sign on a public sidewalk near the East Branch Street home. Susan Flores came out of the home and lunged at Mahon. The physical attack was witnessed by Sgt. David Sanchez of the Arroyo Grande police department. Susan was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the police cruiser. Police officers told Mahon they were taking her in to be booked, but instead drove around the block, out of his view, and let her go. Mahon discovered the ruse later when he asked about the court date to testify. Mahon, later said, “It became painfully obvious to me, the police did not believe in fair application of the laws.”
February 12, 2006 – KristinSmart.com received a tip, which said, “I am the contractor who built the detached garage in the right rear portion of the Flores’ Arroyo Grande house a number of years ago. She is not buried under that foundation. Placing a human body under such a small foundation would have been almost impossible to pull off without us knowing about it.
However, it occurred to me recently that there is something about that backyard that may be of interest to you. Some months before Susan contacted me to work up a bid for her garage, she had contacted me and asked me to give her a bid on building an arbor in her back yard, up against the existing house. I gave her a quote but never heard back from her. Later, when I came over to work up a bid for her garage, I noticed that the arbor that I had bid on had been built and completed – and on a new concrete slab, if my memory serves me correctly.
I didn’t think much of this at the time. After all, I don’t expect to get all the jobs I bid on. It did seem odd though, that after rejecting my bid for being too high, she would call me back for another bid.”
His logic was based on years of experience; prospective customers never called him for another bid if his bid was too high for an earlier project. It’s unclear if the police every followed this up or not.
SEARCH #4 of 4, May 23, 2007
Home at East Branch Street in Arroyo Grande, California
SEARCH PERMISSION GRANTED BY FLORES FAMILY – NO WARRANT OBTAINED
Nearly eleven years to the day, after Kristin disappeared, FBI Special Agent Jeffery Rinek was forced to take a vacation day by his supervisors in the FBI to conduct another search. He brought in a team of volunteers from Chico, California to search the Flores East Branch Street home once again. This time they searched without a warrant because the Flores family had given permission to search so long as they searched in just one specific area of the property. Logic would tend to support that no one would consent to a search of their property if a body was actually buried on the property.
Attorney Mark Connely who represents the Smart family noticed that during the search, Paul’s father Ruben Flores kept peeking through the window coverings and appeared to be acting very nervous as the search was being conducted. Once again, Kristin’s body was not discovered.
BACKYARD OF SUSAN’S HOME HAS NEVER BEEN PROPERLY SEARCHED
According to the Smart family attorney, through three searches of the home belonging to the Flores family located at 529 E. Branch Street, the rear left corner of the Flores backyard patio has never been dug up or inspected with a ground penetrating unit. Law enforcement 101 says that before gallivanting all over the county digging great big holes, the back yard must first be cleared as being the clandestine grave of Kristin Smart. It is the opinion of this newspaper that Kristin Smart is buried in the rear left corner of the Flores property on East Branch Street. We believe in the alerts by BUSTER more than we do in any human assessment of whether or not she is in fact buried there.
PRESENT DAY – YEAR 2018
The long years without any break in the case have not been kind to the Smart family. A family has a soul just like any individual. Relatives are bound together by spirit & blood. Families suffer terribly when a someone is missing without information as to where they’ve gone or why. A family can never begin to heal until all the facts are known and their loved-one returns home and laid to rest in a dignified manner.
The Kristin Smart case became a cauldron of finger pointing by uncooperative, turf-protecting bureaucrats. There were lies (omission and commission), disappearing evidence, bungled searches, and amateurish police work, pathetic police questioning techniques, and the list goes on. Was it a loose-knit conspiracy designed to protect the good name of the university and community, or was it just a combination of bumbling ineptitude with a careless approach to virtually everything? It could have been a little of both, or none of the above.
On Friday, September 2, 2016, Sheriff Parkinson backed by 25 personnel from the FBI announced they would be digging on the property of the university in an effort to locate the body of Kristin Smart. No one knows what is leading the sheriff to these locations, but to a cadre of people, the sheriff is wasting lots of time and money. For some reason, he is avoiding the backyard of the home belonging to Susan Flores in Arroyo Grande, California. It’s possible that Paul Flores was thinking his mother’s home would be dug up next, because he got arrested.
We suspect the arrest was for driving under the influence which would have been his fourth DUI. We are still investigating as to what he was actually arrested for. The arrest was made at 3 am by Hermosa Beach police on September 16, 2016. He spent three days in jail before posting bail and being released. We suspect the images of the past could be haunting Paul and he decided to get drunk and block it all out. Or, maybe he was out with some friends and celebrated a bit too much, who knows.
This even though an earring appearing to have dried blood and believed to be one of Kristin’s favorite, was found on the back patio by Mary Lassiter who rented the home from the Flores. This, even though an eyewitness believes he saw Paul Flores digging her grave that weekend. This, even though Paul told his roommate Derrick Tse, ‘Yes, I killed her and she’s at my mom’s and she’s still there.’ This even though Ruben, Paul’s father allegedly under the influence of alcohol, told Elmer Rice and his wife that Kristin’s body was rolled up in carpet and buried.
You, the reader, must draw your own conclusions. While efforts by law enforcement to find Kristin has suddenly taken a more serious turn after years measured in decades, it’s all for nothing if they do not find Kristin’s body. In the final analysis, nothing has really changed from 1996; we still have a missing coed from Cal Poly and Paul Flores refuses to speak about what happened that evening on the Cal Poly campus. Before anyone can begin to conjure up their own theory as to what really happened to Kristin Smart, a responsible theorist needs to know the major and minor “players.”
MAJOR & MINOR PLAYERS
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California
Founded in 1901, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) is one of the finer technical universities in the United States. Attempting to police a campus serving nearly 19,000 students and housing 6,300 of those students in twenty-eight dormitories is a daunting task. But, in Kristin’s case, one would think common sense should have guided the actions of campus police.
Imagine you’re working for the campus police department and you receive a call from some of Kristin’s friends asking for a safety check of her room. You ignore the request. Later, her roommate calls saying something is not right. You can tell from her voice that she’s deeply distressed and terribly concerned. You say you will look into it, but you do little or nothing because, she’s bound to turn up later. The roommate calls back and you can hear deeper despair in her voice, but again, you still don’t make any real effort to investigate.
After waiting several hours, you finally call the missing student’s parents to see if she went home for the weekend. The missing student’s father shows up the next day to inquire about what is being done to find his daughter. Both parents reveal that it’s extremely uncharacteristic for their daughter not to call home each weekend and immediately suspect something is terribly wrong.
Finally, after being prodded by the student’s father, your attitude changes from “don’t worry, she’ll come back soon” to “aw crap, I guess we had better do something.” The last student to see her alive has a black eye and defensive scratches.
At that point, even Barney Fife would have cordoned off both Kristin’s room and Paul’s room, changed the locks on both doors denying access to everyone until each room was carefully examined for evidence by a fully-trained CSI team. But, instead of securing the rooms, authorities allowed anyone with a key to enter–including a cleaning crew, which most likely destroyed crucially importance evidence.
It was easier and more expedient from a public relations stand point to embrace a lackadaisical attitude. Your defense to explain away these foul-ups and missteps goes something like this: “Give us a break; an incident like this hardly ever occurs at Cal Poly,” or, “We’re just not equipped to handle a situation like this.”
Campus police have the authority to call students in for questioning, and they also have the ability to ask other agencies for help, like the sheriff’s department. Cal Poly’s 1996 response to Kristin’s disappearance was inadequate and unprofessional on every level. In the “lessons learned” department: admit you are in way over your head from the start, and immediately ask the sheriff’s department to aid with the investigation.
The campus police are not baby sitters and certainly could not have done much to prevent Kristin’s demise other than to kick out a student that maintained a 0.6 GPA, drank beer, and partied all the time. But, they had a duty to thoroughly and properly investigate and call for help (immediately) from police agencies better equipped to investigate a potential crime scene.
Kristin’s mother, Denise Smart, went to the university to obtain Kristin’s college transcripts. In a final insult, Cal Poly gave Kristin three “Fs” and an “incomplete” for failing to show up for her exams.
Is Cal Poly Any Better Today?
The California Register contacted George Hughes, current Chief of Police at Cal Poly, with the intent to discuss what, if any, improvements Cal Poly has implemented to better protect students today. We wanted to know what policy changes might have occurred to ensure a more professional response to reports of a missing student. Chief Hughes was courteous and professional. Feeling that this was more of a public affairs matter, he referred us to Cal Poly’s Interim Director of Media Relations, Ellen Cohune. Ms. Cohune never responded.
After Kristin Smart disappeared, Cal Poly allowed the establishment of an organization called SAFER in the fall of 1996, with a $60,000 grant. SAFER was established to prevent all crimes against persons, but especially sexual assaults. SAFER offers rape crisis counselors, counseling and confidential/anonymous reporting of sexual assaults. In May of 2011, there were four sexual assaults reported, which came in rapid succession. The Spring time, especially the month of May, seems to be a dangerous time for Cal Poly coeds. April 30, 2013, campus police were notified of a sexual assault ironically occurring in Muir Hall where Kristin once lived.
In 2012, Cal Poly had forty-five (45) sexual assaults reported. Statistically, only about five percent of the sexual assaults occurring on or near campuses ever get reported. If we extrapolate the data with this fact in mind, then there were closer to 900 sexual assaults which actually occurred at Cal Poly in 2012. Now that’s a jaw dropper. Any fraction of that amount is beyond outrageous.
CAL POLY’s RED HAND PROGRAM
Around 2001, Cal Poly instituted (or allowed) the establishment of the “red hand” program. Every location on campus where a sexual assault was reported was the image of a human hand that had been dipped in red paint. As the number of red hands started to grow, the number of reported sexual assaults became too embarrassing for college authorities, especially during open house when parents were there with sons and daughters to see the campus.
But, embarrassing or not, the red-hand program was extremely effective in raising awareness. During the “WOW” week (“Week of Welcome”) orientation program, new students were taken for a guided tour on campus and stopped at several of these red-hand locations to discuss the assault that was reported to have occurred there.
If you can believe it, Cal Poly ended this effective safety-awareness program when a parent of a prospective student allegedly complained that the campus looked unsafe with red hands in numerous locations on campus. The college decided to use the complaint as an excuse to finally remove the embarrassing red hands and end this incredibly valuable awareness program.
A female who received her master’s degree from Cal Poly in 2003 said she felt it was an extremely effective program. When she saw a red hand, her awareness of the danger posed to coeds was heightened. She said it didn’t make her more fearful, just more aware. Why in the world would Cal Poly or any other college do away with such an effective program? Exhibiting no leadership, the university seized the opportunity to shore up their public image and whitewash all the red hands, thus concealing the ongoing sexual assault problems which plagues Cal Poly every year. Nine hundred sexual assaults per year! Folks, that is simply unacceptable.
Sadly, attempts to retrieve more information about Cal Poly’s “red-hand” program were unsuccessful. We think there’s much more to the story of why it was established and why it disappeared. We were fortunate, however, to speak with Christina Kaviani, Coordinator of the Gender Equity Center (GEC). We discovered from Christina that Cal Poly students receive a one-hour sexual assault presentation during “WOW” week, with an additional twenty minutes given later in each of the respective dormitories.
We recall the words of Col. Nathan Jessup in the movie, A Few Good Men: “You want the truth—you can’t handle the truth!” In the years immediately after Kristin disappeared from the Cal Poly campus, Kristin’s story was discussed during WOW week presentations. Eventually, mentioning the Kristin Smart case during WOW week fell out of favor; the college just wanted to put the matter behind them. Now, WOW week presentations seldom (if ever) mention the name of Kristin Smart or her 1996 disappearance from Cal Poly’s campus. Remember the words of George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It pains us terribly to convey the truth about this beloved school of higher learning, but the truth is, Cal Poly, as a corporate entity, never did care about the disappearance of Kristin Smart. The only time Cal Poly University really showed a caring attitude to the Smart family is when it was expedient to do so in order to protect their “good name.” That is the unvarnished truth. Cal Poly’s “good name” is in the toilet for the way they have treated and continue to treat the parents who had their child snatched right off their campus.
The university needed to demonstrate decisive action, but avoided doing so, because decisive action could have revealed that a horrible thing occurred on the Cal Poly campus. In other words, if you don’t want to know, don’t ask. The unwritten policy was to “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.” Bad news, especially very bad news, is the last thing university authorities want to hit the six o’clock news. Aggressive action to find the truth could not only prove embarrassing, but could potentially reveal culpability of the university. Obviously, you can see where finding the truth may not be in the best interest of the university—especially in the financial or public relations realm.
It’s the same reason colleges throughout the United States have, allowed star football players to commit all sorts of crimes on and off campus. Seldom do colleges hold the athletic star accountable; rather, they usually go out of their way to conceal his criminal misconduct. If colleges do not properly investigate, then they won’t know–better yet, no one else will know either. Ask yourself: why didn’t Pennsylvania State University put a stop to Jerry Sandusky and his child-molesting ways when the rumors were common knowledge around campus? The unwritten policy of looking the other way gave Sandusky tacit approval for his conduct. For over a decade, children were being assaulted at Penn State all because those in power thought it was better to look the other way and protect the “good name” and “reputation” of the university.
While aggressively going after the truth is honorable, some lawyers would not view it as a wise legal move. Cal Poly didn’t, and still doesn’t, give a tinker’s damn about what happened to Kristin Smart.
The Cleary Act
For decades, universities and colleges have been covering-up evidence and thwarting investigations in a variety of ways to ensure incidents construed as embarrassing or legally harmful just go away. The June 22, 2012, case of Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University says it all. Later it was revealed that Jerry Sandusky had been molesting children for some 40 years before one whistle-blower came forward.
Schools failing to properly deal with crimes being committed on school property got so bad that Congress finally stepped in and passed the Cleary Act. The Cleary Act requires all schools that participate in federal financial aid programs to maintain crime records of activity only occurring on campus or at a campus-affiliated home. The crimes are then included in the local police department’s crime statistics. The Cleary Act is named for Jeanne Cleary, a 19-year-old Lehigh University freshman, who was raped and murdered in her campus dormitory in 1986.
The most common and serious crime on college campuses is rape. Fearing the loss of financial contributions and the potential for parents to favor other schools, colleges did whatever they could to suppress, hide, cover-up and under-report any criminal activity occurring on or near their campus.
The Cleary Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on November 8, 1990. Kristin Smart disappeared in 1996, but since there is no evidence a crime actually occurred, Cal Poly doesn’t have to report anything. Cleaning Paul’s dorm room before the police got there means no evidence. No evidence means no nasty trial, no conviction, and no embarrassing headlines for Cal Poly confirming anything bad happened to anyone.
Kristin Smart Campus Security Act
After, Kristin disappeared, the State of California passed the “Kristin Smart Campus Security Act.” The law, which was written by state Senator Mike Thompson, was signed by California Governor Pete Wilson on August 19, 1998. It went into effect January 1, 1999.
It requires all publicly funded educational institutions to coordinate with local police departments about reporting cases involving violence against students, including missing students. Pretty sad when you have to create a law to get people to demonstrate leadership and apply common sense. And, like so many people in our government, if a bureaucrat choses to just blow off compliance with this or any other law, seldom is there full accountability.
We’re not sure about the Kristin Smart Act in California, but the Cleary Act was and is a complete waste of ink. It’s done nothing to curb criminal activity on college campuses. The Cleary Act gives students and parents a false sense of security and should be completely overhauled. It’s just another example of a “feel-good” Act which has little positive effect. The Cleary Act falsely conveys to parents that our government is doing something to protect their son or daughter. Don’t fall for it.
Amazingly, Cal Poly’s damage control team didn’t stop at fouling up a crime scene or inserting a false statement into a missing person’s report (i.e., Kristin’s mother saying Kristin “went camping.”) Cal Poly’s damage control team kept working to protect Cal Poly’s good name by proposing to erect some sort of memorial for Kristin, like a park bench with her name etched on a bronze plaque. However, before her name could be etched into the backrest, the Smarts were asked to sign a legal document drawn up by university attorneys, which forbid the Smart family from saying anything negative about Cal Poly, or they could be sued by the university.
This little ploy did not work; Mr. Smart saw it as an attempt to silence the Smart family forever. If Cal Poly ever does exhibit some sort of caring attitude, it’s likely to be contrived and designed only to protect the “good name and reputation” of California Polytechnic State University.
If college administrators were really interested in discovering what happened to Kristin Smart, wouldn’t they have put up their own million-dollar reward. A million dollars is a small fraction of the university’s budget. In 2011, Cal Poly put $173.4 million in the bank. With just one half of one percent of Cal Poly’s annual budget, this case could have been solved years ago. Like it or not, healthy rewards have a way of jarring memories and loosening tongues.
Maybe Cal Poly is forbidden by policy from using funds as a reward incentive. How about a briefing during WOW Week by a member of the district attorney’s office to warn students that what happened to Kristin Smart could happen again? Such action would give each new student a clear understanding that lawlessness of any kind (on or off campus) is not tolerated.
A university that is genuinely concerned for the safety of the women on their campus would have never ended the red-hand program. They would have stood up to complaining parents and let them know the red-hand program helps to protect the child they want to enroll at the university, regardless of the embarrassment of some. Someone needed to say, “We are sorry you feel that way, madam. We suggest you take your child to a school that is in denial about the dangers on campus, or actively covers them up to make you think there is no danger.”
The new President of Cal Poly, Jeff Armstrong, appears proactive. We are hopeful he will reinstate the red-hand program for the safety of all his students. Most all the people we interviewed have a high regard for Armstrong.
The coordinator for the SAFER program said President Armstrong does his best to find funding to support their efforts, and never once has he tried to curb their efforts to speak freely on the subject of campus safety for all students. Mr. Armstrong is to be commended and we strongly encourage him to bring back the red-hand program.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CLOSURE
The Smart family needs closure, but what does that mean exactly? In life, we expect everything to inevitably end. It’s part of the natural order of things, part of the circle of life.
When there isn’t a proper end, there is no closure, which is unnatural and unhealthy. Having closure allows us to let go. Letting go does not mean forgetting Kristin, nor does it mean no longer caring for Kristin. It means caring for her in another way and on another level. Closure simply means being at peace with the parting or a particular outcome or decision. Truly letting go is one of the hardest things to do in the world. But, for most people, letting go without closure is virtually impossible.
Sadness, fear of separation, and change; all make it tough to truly let go. When one lets go, it means that one has overcome that particular life episode. In the process, one has drawn lessons from it and grew as a result.
Only when one lets go of the past can one move on to the next chapter in life. Closure allows one to clear the path and open the next door. And that’s the point; the Smarts cannot open that next door because of the lack of closure associated with Kristin’s disappearance.
Closure is a time set aside for grieving. The loss or end of anything deserves enough grieving in order for a fitting closure to occur. When there is proper closure, one feels satisfied even though there is a sense of loss.
The disappearance of Kristin Smart has both delayed and prolonged the grieving process for seventeen years.
When a loved-one passes on, we mark the occasion with some sort of ritual or ceremony we commonly refer to as a funeral. Funerals are symbolic gestures that mark the end of a person’s life.
The traditional funeral is a formal farewell in a proper and dignified manner, that provides a fitting ‘closing ceremony’. These ceremonies help to give human beings the closure they need to move on with life.
It’s hard to achieve closure when one remains puzzled, or can’t find logical and reasonable answers to a sudden end (or disappearance) of a person’s life. When there is no closure, but only many unanswered questions, it’s like emotionally bleeding to death from thousands of tiny cuts. Kristin’s disappearance has taken its toll on many people because there has been absolutely no closure for anyone.
The San Luis Obispo Sheriff has an enormous department with a massive budget to cover a very large county. The first thing any new sheriff does upon taking office is to closely examine what funds he has to effectively carry out his mission. So far, Parkinson is keeping his cards close to the vest. To be honest, we were hopeful when Parkinson got elected in November 2010 and sworn in January 2011. Then we were hopeful when he was funded by the county for a full-time cold case detective. Then we were hopeful when the FBI joined the fight once again to find Kristin Smart in September 2016.
About a year after Kristin went missing, a man came from the East to help raise awareness and possibly find a clue that would give the Smart family the closure they needed. According to Kristin’s mother, Dennis Mahon, has just about single-handedly kept Kristin’s story, and the hope of ever finding her, in the consciousness of San Luis Obispo residents.
Dennis arrived to the West coast in October 1997, to help find another missing girl, Kristen Modafferi, who went missing in San Francisco after leaving North Carolina to attend classes at UC Berkeley. Unfortunately, she found herself living next to a half-way house for ‘probation violators’ from Oakland and Alameda Counties. Within two months after arriving in San Francisco, Kristen Modafferi was missing.
Debbie Modafferi and Denise Smart met on a television show, and Debbie thought Denise Smart should meet Dennis Mahon. Denise invited Dennis to a home-cooked meal in Stockton, California. Mahon drove from San Francisco to Stockton to meet with Stan and Denise Smart and hear the story of their daughter’s disappearance. The more he heard about Kristin’s disappearance, the more interested he became in the case. Mahon decided he could do both, and began searching for both missing daughters, Kristen and Kristin.
He bounced back and forth from East to West coast over the past two decades. On one of his return trips to the East coast, Mahon decided to stop in Los Angeles to speak with Paul Flores. Paul Flores was living in an apartment with his sister, Ermalinda, in Irvine, CA. Mahon knocked on the door identifying himself to Ermalinda, who said Paul was not home and promptly slammed the door in his face. Mahon had driven four hours to meet with Paul and decided sit on the steps reading a book until Paul returned home. Ermalinda called the police.
Paul finally arrived on a bicycle and came bounding up the steps. Mahon reached out to shake hands and Paul reciprocated. Paul was cordial, but “hello” was about all the conversation they had before Ermalinda grabbed her brother, yanking him inside the apartment. The police arrived, and were given a brief synopsis by Mahon of Kristin’s disappearance and why he was there. Police “suggested” it would be wise for Mahon to leave, so he got in his car and headed for North Carolina.
Mahon returned in 2001 to continue his search for both missing daughters, Modafferi and Smart. He was routinely seen walking around Arroyo Grande or on campus at Cal Poly holding a sign demanding the truth. Mahon (and others) are convinced the Flores family is concealing information about Kristin’s disappearance. Mahon walked many miles and spoke with thousands of people. The weeks turned to months and the months turned to years.
MAHON WAS SET UP BY POLICE?
Back in the early days of Kristin’s disappearance, Dennis Mahon was actively attempting to get law enforcement to “dig up Susan’s backyard,” as his sign said. Feeling harassed by Mahon’s sign-carrying activities, the Flores family got a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring Mahon to stay fifty feet away from the two Flores residences and places of employment.
According to Mahon, it took a bald-faced lie under oath by Ruben Flores to convince the judge to grant the TRO. Ruben said Dennis would run around his home at 7am wearing a Cal Poly T-shirt. Mahon said, “Anyone who knows me knows for certain that I just don’t get up that early. I’m a night owl. Ruben Flores lied under oath. I did not run around his home at any time wearing a Cal Poly T-shirt, and especially not at 7 am in the morning.”
To make sure he was in full compliance with the TRO, Mahon went to the Arroyo Grande Police Department to ask specifically where he could walk in Arroyo Grande without violating the restraining order. The police showed him exactly where he was allowed to walk. This is where Mahon believes the Arroyo Grande Police set him up, because twenty minutes after leaving the Arroyo Grande police station, he was placed under arrest.
When he walked into the station asking for police guidance, Mahon believes the police saw an opportunity to rid their community of this “activist” and his embarrassing activities. Police instructions to Mahon may have been designed to trap him. He said that police told him he’d be safe if he walked down the street where there were several businesses.
One of those businesses was a real estate office where Susan Flores (Paul’s mother) had her license hung. Mrs. Flores was not normally there during the week, because she had another job. But because she had her real estate license at that particular brokerage, it was considered a “place of employment.”
Mahon believes the police contacted Susan Flores immediately after he left the Arroyo Grande police station to set a trap. According to Mahon, the police pulled it off with military precision. Mahon said the moment he walked in front of the real estate office, an Arroyo Grande police cruiser rolled up. Arroyo Grande police officers told Mahon to put his sign down and sit down on the curb. Mahon had found himself entangled in a police snare.
Another police car appeared a few minutes later with Susan Flores in the back seat. Police had driven to her regular place of employment to retrieve her so she could make a citizen’s arrest. Mahon pointed out to the officers that he could not be in violation, because he could see the car belonging to Susan Flores parked in a lot at the school where she worked (hundreds of yards away from where he was standing).
He felt confident he was not in violation of the TRO because he explicitly followed police instructions. Mahon was not aware Flores had a real estate license attached to a local realty office, nor did he know it was still considered her place of employment, even if she was not there. He unknowingly walked past the front door of her “place of employment,” and when he did, Arroyo Grande police sprung the trap and got their man. It was truly a “gotcha” moment.
It makes one wonder if the Flores family had some strong connections with the Arroyo Grande police department? Or, maybe the power brokers in Arroyo Grande gave the police department the green light to “make the problem go away.”
Mahon was handcuffed and led away in an Arroyo Grande police car. He was booked and sent to jail. It was plainly obvious to Mahon that he was set up and the whole thing was masterfully orchestrated by the Arroyo Grande Police Department.
“Seeing no mitigating or extenuating circumstances,” the judge sentenced Mahon to twenty days in jail for violating the restraining order. When he got out of jail, he went to get the camera and the sign that officers had seized from him. The police said they didn’t have either one. Mahon said, “The police stole my camera and my sign, or allowed someone else to take them, which is the same thing. It would not surprise me to find out they gave the sign and my camera to Susan Flores.” Mahon went on to say, “My camera and sign turned up missing just like the earring.”
The police were not done messing with Dennis Mahon yet. One day, as he was driving south on Hwy 101, he was pulled over at the Halcyon Road off-ramp for having an expired plate. His car was impounded. He was not allowed to retrieve his car until his case was adjudicated, which was well over a month away. His assigned public defender successfully argued that since his car was registered out-of-state, there was a grace period for him to register the car, therefore the arrest was invalid. The citation was tossed out.
When Mahon was finally permitted to retrieve his car, it had been sold to pay impound fees. Dennis said, “Along with my camera and sign, they stole my car, too.” It was painfully apparent to Mahon that the “good-Ole-boy” network had “circled the wagons” to protect the Flores family.
He said, “It’s as if the Flores family had the entire Arroyo Grande Police Department as their own personal secret service.”
Mahon’s trouble with local police did not end there. In January of 2003, he went to the East coast to be with his sick father, and, therefore missed a court date in San Luis Obispo. Per the bench warrant that was issued, Mahon was arrested again when he returned.
In April 2005, Mahon arrived to participate at an Arroyo Grande City Council meeting. He placed his name on the list to speak before the council. Susan Flores and Mike McConville also arrived, but well after he did. Arroyo Grande Police, once again, did not disappoint–Mahon was arrested again for violating the TRO. He asked the arresting officer a hypothetical question, “If I’m at home and the Flores family pulls into my driveway, they can call the police to have me arrested?” The officer just smiled and said, “Let’s let the judge sort it out.” Mahon was once again handcuffed and sent to jail. Police power, in this case, was used to quash free and open debate at a city council meeting.
Mahon stood up against those who were hell-bent on his destruction. Destroy him they did. He spoke truth to power, and under the color of law, was repeatedly attacked. To Mahon, the system was rallying around the very family he felt was either responsible for Kristin’s disappearance, or had first-hand knowledge of what actually happened. Now on foot, with little money, and certainly no political juice to correct the injustices against him, he did just what the good-Ole-boys wanted, and returned to his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Flores family found an attorney to sue Mahon and included the Smart family saying essentially that Mahon and the Smarts had conspired to interfere with their lives. We have been told the wrongful death suit against Paul Flores and the Flores cross-complaint are on hold until the sheriff’s investigation is complete. Even though it’s been seventeen years since Kristin disappeared, the sheriff’s office still has not completed their investigation. The Smart family has no reason to trust any sheriff after all they have been through, but they are hopeful that Sheriff Ian S. Parkinson will find the truth and bring their daughter home.
RUBEN H. FLORES
Ruben Flores is the father of Paul Flores. There are those who believe Ruben may have helped his son dispose of Kristin’s body in the early morning hours of May 25, 1996. While Mr. Flores may or may not have come to his son’s rescue, he does appear to have some issues.
Except for a six month period while he cared for his father, Dennis Mahon was living on the West coast from 2001 until 2005. He continued to walk around with his signs in an effort to achieve some sliver of justice for the Smart family. On one particular day, he was walking through the crowd at the Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo.
A man who called himself “Gus,” sporting a long, gray ponytail, approached Mahon to share a disturbing conversation he had with Ruben Flores. Gus was working for a phone company as an independent subcontractor and one day, he was approached by Ruben who initiated a conversation. The conversation, according to Gus, almost led to a physical confrontation at the end of the brief exchange.
Ruben Flores: “Do you know who I am?”
Gus: “Yes, I know who you are.”
Ruben Flores: “I guess you know who my son is?”
Gus: “Well, yes. This is a small community and it’s pretty hard not to know.”
Ruben Flores: “That bitch deserved to die.”
Gus: Feeling that Ruben was referring to Kristin Smart responded, “What? What the hell are you talking about? Are you crazy?”
Ruben Flores: “That bitch was a slut and deserved to die.”
At this point, Gus lost his composure and replied…
Gus: “If you ever spoke to me about my daughter that way, I’d beat the hell out of you!”
With that, Gus said Ruben just mumbled something and walked away. Were Ruben’s statements some kind of communication with the outside world? Was it some sort of justification to excuse his son’s behavior and his own involvement (if any)?
If true, this brief conversation is indicative of a very angry man. Anger can sometimes be a substitute emotion. People sometimes make themselves angry so they don’t have to feel pain. Humans have the ability to convert their feelings of pain into anger because it feels better to be angry than it does to be in pain. This conversion may be done consciously or unconsciously.
Feeling anger, rather than pain, has a number of advantages, primarily distraction. People in pain generally think about their pain. Angry people, however, think more about harming those who (they perceive) have caused their pain. Part of the transmutation of pain into anger involves an attention shift from self-focus to other-focus. Anger temporarily protects people from having to recognize and address their painful feelings. They instead concentrate on getting back at the people they’re angry with.
Making oneself angry can help hide the reality a situation that is frightening or makes one feel vulnerable. In addition to providing a good smoke screen for feelings of vulnerability, becoming angry also creates a feeling of righteousness, power, and moral superiority that is not present when someone is merely in pain. Anger does not exist without a cause.
Whether justified or unjustified, the seductive feeling of anger-induced righteousness offers a powerful, but temporary, boost to self-esteem. It is more satisfying to feel angry than to acknowledge the painful feelings associated with vulnerability. Some people develop an unconscious habit of transforming almost all of their vulnerable feelings into anger so they can avoid having to deal with them.
The problem is that even when anger distracts one from the fact that they feel vulnerable, still, at some level, the feelings of vulnerability are recognized. Anger cannot make pain disappear–it only distracts one from it. Anger generally does not resolve or address the problems that make one feel fearful or vulnerable in the first place; it can create new problems, including social and health issues. The combination of anger and pain can become a toxic elixir with physical manifestations.
Ruben Flores may or may not be involved in the disappearance of Kristin Smart, but he has apparently displayed instances of unusual behavior in both words and deeds that would lead the common person to conclude, that he is an angry man indeed.
Usually, people like this also have a long history of domestic violence. While rumors do exist, we have no evidence that his wife, Susan Flores, was ever involved in a verbal or physically abusive relationship.
SUSAN P. FLORES
Mahon reported that Susan P. Flores, mother of Paul Flores, would also purportedly make bizarre statements like Ruben, but her comments were considered (by those who heard them) as a veiled threat. Susan Flores worked at a community school in Arroyo Grande for at-risk youth. A source that asked not to be identified, and who has followed the Kristin Smart case for years, stated, “I worked with Susan Flores at the school and she often used the disappearance (of Kristin Smart) as a joke to scare students–saying that she would do the same to them, that she would be working under her house all weekend, as she smiled.”
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE NEIGHBOR
The neighbor next to the Flores property on East Branch Street said she moved to her home about a year or so after Kristin went missing. By that time, Ruben and Susan had split up and Susan was living with a boyfriend in the East Branch St. home.
The neighbor said there were several incidents that made her extremely nervous about living next to Susan Flores and her boyfriend (Mike McConville).
The first incident was when her husband was standing on a ladder in the backyard repairing the lattice over the patio. McConville came out of the Flores home shouting to the neighbor’s husband, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The neighbor deduced that Susan and Mike thought her husband was only “pretending” to fix the lattice work in order to get a good look at the backyard area of Susan’s home. The neighbor said, “This just was not the case at all.”
The second incident the neighbor reported involved Paul Flores while he was outside painting. According to the neighbor’s description of the incident, Paul was locked in a “creepy” stare at her 12-year-old niece. Feeling extremely uncomfortable, she brought her niece inside.
The third incident, which the neighbor admitted was the most disturbing of all, was when the utility company was working across the street. According to the neighbor’s account, Mike McConville ran out of the East Branch Street home yelling and screaming at the utility workers. He ordered them to leave even though they were actually on the other side of the street. The neighbor recalled vividly that Mike’s face was beet red with veins popping out of his neck as he barked off orders to the utility workers.
According to the neighbor, he was acting as if he had mentally lost all control. The neighbor described Mike’s behavior was that of a psychotic person, detached from reality. The incident was so unsettling, the neighbor decided, then and there, to put her home up for sale and move away from the Flores family and all their “issues.” She admits today that she really loved her home on East Branch Street, but could no longer sleep at night knowing “those crazy people” were living next door.
BRETT C. MACARTHUR
Brett MacArthur became the boyfriend and eventual husband of Paul’s older sister, Ermalinda Flores. At one time, Brett and Ermalinda lived together at 2200 Loomis Street, San Luis Obispo. The stolen electric golf cart was found in close proximity to the Loomis Street address. We have been unable to confirm if Brett and Ermalinda were living at the 2200 Loomis address on the night Kristin disappeared. Brett, Ermalinda, and Paul all moved to Los Angeles and lived together for a time. After Ermalinda and Brett got a divorce, Paul and Brett lived together as roommates. Because of their close association, some suspect Brett MacArthur could have been an accomplice or have first-hand knowledge about Kristin’s disappearance. Attempts to contact Brett MacArthur were unsuccessful.
PAUL R. FLORES
In high school, Paul Flores was not a stellar student, but was accepted to Cal Poly anyway. In the Cal Poly fall quarter of 1995, Paul flunked English composition and math. He received a “D” in an introductory course in food sciences, which was his major. He did earn a unit of credit in a pass-fail course, bowling. Flores’ grades would not improve much over the next two quarters, and at a GPA of 0.6, his freshman academic standing was on life-support.
From early on, Paul had chronic problems with alcohol. One occasion, Paul was observed by SLO police moving at a high rate of speed in his pickup truck through a downtown San Luis Obispo intersection. A police cruiser followed him into a gas station. The officer reported that Flores’ speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot. The officer allowed Paul to go inside the station to pay for his gas. The policeman watched through the windows as Paul purchased a pack of chewing gum and proceeded to stuff nearly the entire pack of gum in his mouth.
The officer deduced he was attempting to conceal the alcohol on his breath by chewing an entire pack of gum. The officer ordered Flores to spit the gum out and administered a breath test. Paul flunked the breathalyzer with a 0.13% blood-alcohol content (BAC) reading.
According to Cal Poly students who knew him, Paul Flores was terribly annoying. He got a kick out of hitting on girls while they stood next to their boyfriends. Paul was severely challenged in the social skills category, and would become detestably obnoxious when he started to drink.
Whenever Paul would boast about a sexual conquest, those who knew him would scoff, believing his tantalizing story was a pure fantasy. His parents bought a pool table, hoping to attract other high school students to their house. “Paul had no friends,” they told a law enforcement source, who recounted the conversation. “And so they thought that” (with the pool table) “Paul at least would have somebody to talk to.”
Flores kept a small refrigerator in his dorm room on the ground floor of Santa Lucia Hall, and on weekend evenings, he would sit in his room and drink beer to get a good buzz going, then wander around looking for parties off campus he could crash.
IDENTITY IN MOTION
When Paul Flores enrolled at Cal Poly, he called himself “Paul RUBEN Flores,” but in other documents, he refers to himself as “Paul RAUL Flores.” Friends of the Smart family believe he is also using two different social security numbers. Recently, these dual identities may have caught up with him where he worked. We received word that he may have lost his job with a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Los Angeles. Sources inside the plant indicated that his employment was terminated for submitting fraudulent documents and/or making untruthful statements. We have been unable to confirm that information, as several calls to Coca-Cola have not been returned.
We ask our readers to pause for a moment and attempt to view all of this from Paul’s perspective. If you were to ask anyone to define “courage” or “cowardice,” you would receive as many different answers as the number of people you asked. Your dictionary would say that courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear of the consequences.
If Paul were to walk into the sheriff’s office and say, “I want to tell exactly what happened,” such an act would demonstrate tremendous courage. It would take extraordinary courage because Paul could not predict or control, should he do that. If Paul Flores came forward to fully cooperate with investigators, his actions would be a remarkable act of courage given the deep, volatile emotions connected with the case.
It is not too late for him to demonstrate such courage and come forward, revealing all he knows about what happened to Kristin and the location of her body. Paul needs to resist the knee-jerk reaction to call his father for help. It’s time to stand on his own, like a man, and tell the truth about what really happened that night. If Paul was responsible for Kristin’s death and discarding her body, he knows he will end up in a jail cell. Regardless of where Paul ends up, however, he will once again breathe free air, never having to look over his shoulder again. He may experience the first decent night’s sleep since this all occurred seventeen years ago.
Only Paul Flores has the power to extinguish the flames consuming his soul, but he must first demonstrate true courage. Paul’s full cooperation with authorities will be his ticket out of a self-imposed prison he‘s been languishing for nearly two decades. Paul’s lawyers were very good at keeping body out of jail. But, by doing so, they have imprisoned his soul for the rest of his life.
There is a new sheriff in town. The loss of Kristin Smart and all the unanswered questions has created a vacuum and nature abhors a vacuum. Kristin’s parents, and all those who knew and loved Kristin, will forever cry out for the truth until she is returned home.
A request for the truth will always be at Paul’s doorstep, nipping at his heels until he ultimately finds the courage to tell the world what really happened that foggy night on the Cal Poly campus. Disclosing all he knows, regardless of the consequences, is the definition of true courage–the kind of courage that heroes possess.
If his father came to his rescue, Paul felt compelled to follow his father’s directives as they came in rapid succession. Paul was probably engulfed in a state of fear and panic. Paul probably always did what his father told him.
Paul’s father, like so many other fathers, possibly made the mistake of protecting his son at any cost. If Kristin’s death was partially accidental, the cost for Paul was way too high. An incident that could have resulted in possibly probation only, turned out to be a life-long incarceration of Paul’s soul and spirit. The cost was indeed far too high.
Up until September 2016, Paul Flores was working for a temp agency who loaned him out to The Zentis Company, a firm that puts flavorings in Yoplait Yogurt and other food items. After the Sheriff had his big press September press conference, the company fired him and he once again became unemployed.
From our point of view, the local good old boys have always known what happened to Kristin Smart. She was taken to Paul’s dorm room where she was murdered and quite probably raped as well. Then, her body was transported in Paul’s 1985 Nissan pickup truck to his mother’s home at 529 E. Branch St., Arroyo Grande, CA where she was rolled up in carpet and buried under a mantel of concrete. They found her earring on the back patio, an eyewitness says he saw them digging a deep hole that weekend, an FBI agent said the concrete planter box was eerily similar to a grave, Paul’s father Ruben tells an acquaintance at a party they rolled up her body in a carpet and buried her and Paul tells his college roommate, “Yes, I killed her and she’s at my mom’s and she’s still there.”
They have always known what happened to Kristin and where she was taken. They, the upstanding folks in San Luis Obispo County with connections, decided to just let sleeping dogs alone to protect the “good name and reputation of their esteemed institution of higher learning.” This is just another case that bolsters the assertion that America has a dirty little secret when it comes to small towns and their colleges.
The disappearance of Kristin Smart has brought pain to virtually everyone involved–even those who were not involved. Obviously, the Smart family has suffered a terrible loss, and their pain has been exacerbated by all the unanswered questions and lack of closure. The Smart family wants, what any family would want, their daughter returned home. The years have not minimized their grief or the amplitude of the emotional roller-coaster they’ve been forced to endure year after year.
Paul Flores and his family have been burdened with the pall of suspicion ever since Kristin disappeared. Kristin’s disappearance, and Paul’s possible connection with it, have been the subject of numerous news reports, television shows, and newspaper articles. Early in 2013, the Discovery Channel aired an hour-long segment called, “Girl Gone” on “True Crimes” with Aphrodite Jones, about Kristin’s disappearance and Paul’s possible involvement. The Coca-Cola plant where Paul was employed was buzzing about the show and Paul’s possible connection in the case. A few weeks later, Paul was apparently fired from Coca-Cola, a $21/hr. job he had held for several years.
The law enforcement community certainly cannot be proud of their involvement (or lack thereof) in the Kristin Smart case. There were so many missteps and suspicious events that people are left to wonder if they ever really wanted to solve the case. I believe they took overt steps to cover up what happened.
We are referring to: allowing a possible crime scene to be cleaned before police examination, then the room completely renovated that summer to further ensure that all evidence had been destroyed. How about a missing earring from police custody, assertions that Ruben was tipped off about a property search plan, failure to use cadaver dogs, failure to search the Flores’ cars, and the set-up and harassment of Dennis Mahon.
Then there is Cal Poly. Virtually all of us at The California Register love, respect and admire this venerable institution of higher learning. It hurt to report our findings about this wonderful school and the campus police department of 1996. Had the school acted more professionally, this entire matter may have been solved a week after Kristin came up missing, and all parties could have moved on with their lives. The cover up is generally always worse than the actual crime.
After speaking with countless students and several administrators, Cal Poly’s abolishment of the “red-hand program” was a terrible mistake. We strongly recommend bringing it back with full university support. If Cal Poly truly has concern about the welfare and safety of the students, faculty, and staff, they will reinstate this effective awareness-raising program.
It appears, that if allegations are true, the Arroyo Grande Police Department acted improperly and illegally by harassing and eventually setting up Dennis Mahon. If it all occurred as Mahon described, it’s a classic case of entrapment. Entrapment is when the police induce or trick a person to commit an infraction of law he or she is not previously disposed to commit. It’s entirely possible that Dennis Mahon was entrapped and wrongfully incarcerated by people operating under the color of law.
We suspect that Mahon’s numerous arrests were orchestrated, designed to disrupt his activities, load his file with bogus arrests, and wear him down. A “file-loading” strategy is when an individual has several arrests that lead the judge to believe he’s a bad character when, in fact, the opposite is true. Unfortunately, there is no group out there to police the police.
We are very well aware of small-town politics and how they can subvert a police unit. The Arroyo Grande Police Department is a better police department than years past. We hope their loyalty continues to be only with their oath of office and the Constitution of the United States.
A standing threat of retaliation against whistle-blowers explains why some police officers “go-along-to-get-along.” Perhaps a policy to retaliate is why a police officer or administrator did not stand up to protect Dennis Mahon when he was being set-up. This may explain how local law enforcement, backed by some judges were effective at breaking Mr. Mahon and running him out of town. Today, Mahon takes it all in stride. He regrets not being able to find Kristin for the Smart family, but continues to hope that someone in the community will come forward with information to finally solve the Kristin Smart case.
Paul Flores may have had nothing to do with it, or he may have had everything to do with it. The burden is on the police to discover the truth and find the evidence. Then it’s up to a jury to find guilt or innocence. In our legal system, people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. You, the reader, are a juror in the court of public opinion and can render your own verdict. The wisest verdict anyone of us can make is to let the police do their job and let a court of competent jurisdiction render the final verdict.
Paul Flores has, through the years, shown a chronic problem of aberrant behavior toward females. According to a neighbor, Paul enjoys “creeping” women out, making them feel extremely uncomfortable by staring at them for long periods of time.
In the years after Kristin disappeared, a former girlfriend said Paul would frequently seek to extinguish his emotional pain and battle his nagging conscience by getting so drunk he would pass out. According to her, several times during these binges, Paul would openly weep, crying that he wanted to talk about something, but that he just couldn’t do it. She said they ultimately broke up because he was physically abusive.
It is theorized by many that Flores brought Kristin to his dorm room and began to take advantage of the attractive young blonde. Paul, (or someone else) could have slipped Kristin a “mickey” at the party. The use of date-rape drugs to reduce resistance in women was not only prevalent during this era, but some say it was at epidemic proportions. As crazy as it sounds, a date-rape drug could be actually purchased from the student bookstore at Cal Poly in 1996. It’s not outlandish to think that Kristin’s drink(s) could have been laced, then someone waited to take full advantage of her reduced defenses.
Kristin could have been a victim of a sexual assault and possibly fought back. Her attacker could have panicked and used too much force to keep her quiet, force strong enough to end her life. Kristin could have had a bad reaction to a date-rape drug, or to too much alcohol. She could have thrown up, and asphyxiated on her own vomit. Or, maybe Kristin simply slipped, hitting her head in such a way that it killed her.
Since cadaver dogs alerted on three locations in Paul’s room, it strongly suggests that Kristin died in that room. Only Paul Flores knows the exact details of what transpired in room #128 of Santa Lucia Hall on the Cal Poly campus. For seventeen years, Paul Flores has remained steadfast in his silence, while occasionally attempting to drown a nagging conscience in alcohol. “When the truth of this finally comes out, you are just not going to believe it.” These words were purportedly said to the Smarts’ attorney, by an attorney representing Paul Flores.
For seventeen long years, the Smart family has been in mourning. Psychologists say that during the first year, after a death, parents and siblings feel numb. They experience intense anger, guilt, denial, and fear, all of which are normal for bereavement. In most cases, after the first anniversary of a death, the numbness begins to wear off and the true reality can hit very hard. Many parents say that the second year is the hardest when they lose a child.
Normally, it may be some time before a parent can even look at their child’s photographs without losing it. Memories hurt to the core. In time, parents and siblings come to cherish those memories, and they will once again bring a smile to their faces and joy to their hearts. Normal grief is similar to a roller coaster, there are good days and bad days.
It seems that everyone got hurt. The Smart family has no answers and no closure. Paul Flores continues to stay afloat on a sea of unanswered questions. He avoided incarceration, but is continually harassed with a pestering conscience that won’t let him forget what happened that foggy night at Cal Poly in May 1996.
Stan and Denise Smart have been school teachers for most of their adult lives. Stan is now retired. Denise stays busy with work. Staying busy helps her to deal with the loss of Kristin. Kristin would have been proud of her brother and sister. All three siblings were extraordinarily good swimmers who brought home one trophy after another. Matt Smart missed qualifying for the Olympic swim team by a fraction of a second.
People say he surely would have qualified, but was stricken with the flu just a week prior to the time trials. Matt got a job with a big national drug company and was selected as their top “rookie” salesperson of the year. Kristin’s sister Lindsey was hired by a national retail store chain right out of college, but approximately three years ago, she was hired by Google Corporation.
It’s important to realize the community at large has also been injured. Every citizen in San Luis Obispo County gets “cut” a little bit, when a television crew comes to town to run a segment on the Kristin Smart disappearance. A Shell Beach resident requesting anonymity wants the case solved. He’s offering one million dollars to anyone (except the perpetrator(s) with information leading to the arrest and conviction of ALL WHO WERE INVOLVED. His final condition is that the punishment must fit the crime(s).
May 25, 2018, marks the beginning of the 23rd year since Kristin Smart disappeared from Cal Poly. The sad saga continues to captivate imaginations and frustrate law enforcement. Actually, it continues irritate law enforcement and frustrate citizens who want justice for Kristin. Most everyone knowledgeable about the case has a personal theory as to what happened. If it was an innocent accident, then the prudent and honorable thing to do would be to immediately call paramedics and police. If no wrongdoing was committed, then there’s nothing to fear, and no need to plead the Fifth Amendment twenty-seven times.
For the Fall school session, Cal Poly boasts receiving 55,000 applications for freshman enrollment. Combined with the applications of students attempting to transfer in, the applications rose to 65,000. Furthermore, Cal Poly boasts of having to deny entry to over 10,000 wannabe freshmen students who submitted proof of have an 4.0 GPA in high school. The idea that a scandalous murder two decades ago will injure Cal Poly financially is ludicrous. Their operating budget is estimated to be $1.2 billion dollars per year.
It’s time to go dig up the body from the Flores backyard and end the suffering for all.