PASO ROBLES — A candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday night at the Paso Robles City Park in honor of Kristin Smart and her family. 

Smart was a 19-year-old Cal Poly student who went missing over the Memorial Day weekend in 1996. She was last seen with fellow Cal Poly student Paul Flores after walking home from an off-campus party. 

Smart was a 19-year-old Cal Poly student who went missing over the Memorial Day weekend in 1996. Contributed photo

Over the last 24 years, Flores has remained a person of interest in the case, with speculation that Flores killed Smart and buried her in his mother Susan Flores’s backyard or his father’s home both in Arroyo Grande. 

After several attempts over the years by local law enforcement to locate Kristin Smarts body and bring her assailant to justice, the case finally got the break it needed, and on Tuesday, Apr. 13, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced that both Paul Flores and his father Ruben Flores had been arrested. 

The charge against Paul Flores is for the murder of Kristin Smart, while Ruben Flores is charged with accessory after the fact to murder. 

Parkinson stated that Smart’s body has not been recovered at this time; however that does not mean they do not have a location or a possible location.  

The case is ongoing and has been turned over to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney, who met the defendants and their attorneys on Thursday for arraignment.

Both defendants asked the Superior Court Judge to have the arraignment moved to Monday, Apr. 19, to enter a plea. 

Kristin Smart’s case has made national news over the last week with the attention of CNN, Dateline, New York Times, as well as a long list of others.

“Missing for almost 25 is years is too long,” one local resident of Paso Robles shared. “It is time that the national news tell Kristin’s story and be able to give her family some peace after all these years.” 

The Smart family has shared a response after the Flores’s arrest and after the first court hearing. Through spokesperson John Segale they are letting the community and the nation know they are watching closely and have tremendous faith in the justice system even after all these years.  

Reports came out late last week that the family’s long-time attorney James Murphy will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Ruben Flores. No complaints have been filed as of today. 

In light of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s progress this week in the case and the District Attorney filing murder charges, Kristin Smart finally received an official date of death. During the press conference of District Attorney Dan Dow, under Smart’s photo, stated Feb. 20, 1997 — May 25, 1996.   

The flyer for this evenings, candlelight event states that Christopher Lambert, creator of the “Your Own Backyard” podcast that brought national attention to the Smart case over the last year and a half, will be at the event along with several others who have supported the Smart family over the years. 

Lambert, a Santa Maria native, brought new life back to Smart’s case in Sept. 2019; after noticing the lack of information he found available, he decided to tell her story in a way that had never been done before. 

Through his podcast “Your Own Backyard,” Lambert goes through the details of the night Smart disappeared and the events that transpired after. 

Sheriff Parkinson stated at the press conference on Tuesday “in 2019, we interviewed several witnesses that had not previously been interviewed…I will say that some of that information came to light through the podcast [‘Your Own Backyard,’ Christopher Lambert] that many of you are familiar with that was produced and eventually lead to interviewing that witness.” 

After all these years, several changes of guard in all the official positions, and after a young central coast man dedicated the last few years to Smart’s case, justice for Kristin Smart can finally begin.    

The candlelight vigil is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in downtown Paso Robles City Park. COVID safety protocols are advised.  

Getting through this together, Paso Robles