In 2019, podcaster Chris Lambert created an eight-part series entitled Your Own Backyard to investigate the 1996 disappearance of college student Kristin Smart. The case had fascinated him since he was a boy, as he had passed a billboard about Smart's disappearance almost daily for 20 years.
He's not the only one intrigued by the story - the Kristin Smart case has captured the attention of countless people across the US, and over two decades later, investigators may have finally found a lead: On April 13, 2021, Paul Flores and his father, Ruben, were arrested in connection with Smart's disappearance.
- Photo: 48 Hours / CBS
Nineteen-Year-Old Kristin Smart Was Last Seen Being Escorted To Her Dorm Room After A Birthday Party
At about 2 am on May 25, 1996, Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart was accompanied back to her dorm by two students who had found her passed out and intoxicated on their lawn after a party. During that walk, Paul Flores, a fellow freshman, appeared and promised to take her the rest of the way to her room.
Initially, Margarita Campos, a friend who last saw Smart at the beginning of the night, assumed she would see her the next day. When Campos went to check on her in the morning, however, it was clear Smart hadn't come home.
University Police Thought She Had Gone On Vacation And Didn’t Report Her Missing For Several Days
Smart had left all of her personal effects in her dorm and never came back to collect them. When Campos went to check her room again several hours later, Smart's belongings were still where she had left them. After two days, Campos decided to call campus police. Authorities weren't overly concerned and figured Smart was on vacation, as it was Memorial Day weekend. Campos said:
The campus police were, like, "Are you sure she didn't go out of town?" It's like, she has nothing on her. How could she have gone out of town?
Smart was missing for four days before campus police started investigating her whereabouts.
Paul Flores, One Of The Students Who Escorted Smart To Her Room, Was Named As A Person Of InterestVideo: YouTube
Paul Flores quickly became a prime suspect, as he was the last person to see Smart alive. He told investigators he had left Smart at her dorm before walking home. Flores also had a black eye, which he first explained was from a basketball accident. He later admitted to lying about this, then claimed he injured himself while working on his father's truck.
A videotaped interview reveals Flores's discomfort while being questioned: At one point, he "pulled his arms into his T-shirt, scrunched over at the waist in his chair and lifted his feet off the floor, as if moving toward a fetal position." He also reportedly told investigators, "If you're so smart, tell me where the body is."
Flores was released after questioning.
Scott Peterson, Who Would Be Convicted Of Murdering His Wife In 2004, Was Dismissed As A Person Of InterestVideo: YouTube
Scott Peterson attended Cal Poly around the same time as Smart and Flores. Peterson would later kill his wife, Laci, and their unborn child in 2002 - the same year Smart was declared legally dead. He was convicted in 2004.
Prior to Peterson's arrest, law enforcement thought the two women may have been victims of a serial killer. After Peterson was taken into custody, investigators suspected he might be connected to Smart's disappearance, but no evidence corroborated this.