'Extremely emotional': Dramatic arrest after 25-year-old mystery

Associated Press
·3-min read

The "prime suspect" has been arrested in the 25-year-old disappearance of a Californian college student.

Paul Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Kristin Smart, 19, before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area on Tuesday (local time). 

His 80-year-old father, Ruben Flores, was arrested as an accessory at his Arroyo Grande home, where sheriff's investigators conducted another search.

Missing woman Kristin Smart (right).
A dramatic arrest of Paul Flores (left) has been made in the case of missing woman Kristin Smart (right). Source: Instagram/yourownbackyardpodcast/Facebook

Defence attorney Robert Sanger confirmed Paul was arrested in the Kristin Smart case, though no details were immediately available on the charges he faces. Mr Sanger declined further comment.

Ruben was booked on suspicion of accessory after a felony, according to San Luis Obispo County jail records.

Paul Flores is pictured in court in 2006.
Paul Flores is pictured in court in 2006 over missing woman Kristin Smart. Source: Getty Images

Kristin Smart last seen with Paul Flores in 1996

Ms Smart, from Stockton, vanished in May 1996 while returning to a dormitory at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo after a party.

She was seen with Paul, who was a student at the time.

A spokesman for the Smart family said this was "an extremely emotional day".

“For over twenty-four years, we have waited for this bittersweet day. It is impossible to put into words what this day means for our family; we pray it is the first step to bringing our daughter home,” a statement from the family said. 

“While Kristin’s loving spirit will always live in our hearts, our life without her hugs, laughs and smiles is a heartache that never abates.”

The Smart family (pictured) with a photo of missing woman Kristin Smart.
A spokesman for the Smart family (pictured holding a photo of Kristin Smart) said 'this is an extremely emotional day'. Source: Getty Images

The news comes about a month after Sheriff Ian Parkinson named Paul as the "prime suspect" in the case, and investigators searched his father's home and property using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs.

Investigators served another search warrant at the home of Ruben about 24km south of the university on California's Central Coast, KSBY-TV reported.

They appeared to be disassembling a deck outside the home and the sound of power saws and drills could be heard whining in the background.

Investigators searching the house of Ruben Flores in the case of missing woman Kristin Smart.
Investigators appeared to be disassembling a deck outside the home of Ruben Flores. Source: AAP

Search warrants were served last year on Paul's home in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, and at other locations in California and Washington state. 

Investigators conducted digs on the campus in 2016.

Paul has remained silent through the years, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to not answer questions before a grand jury and in a deposition for a lawsuit that was brought against him.

He was arrested in February on a weapons charge and released on bond.

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