LOS ANGELES — For nearly 25 years, the family of Kristin Smart worked to bring justice to the Cal Poly student.
They immediately took an active role when she first went missing on the campus in 1996 and over the years held countless press conferences and went to court on behalf of Smart. They were open about the fact that they believe the longtime suspect, Paul Flores, killed Smart and at one point even sued in civil court.
Then on Tuesday, the news they’d been waiting for finally occurred. San Luis Obispo County authorities arrested Flores, along with his father, in connection with Smart’s slaying.
In a statement, the family called it a “bittersweet day,” adding they hoped it marked “the first step to bringing our daughter home.”
“We honor Kristin today and those who worked with unparalleled tenacity and dedication to bring us to this day,” they said in the statement. “Without Kristin in our life, there will never be justice, but we will pray for peace. Unfortunately, the indifference and lack of resolve we experienced early on set the course for many years.”
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said the arrests do not mark the end of his agency’s work.
“As you can imagine, until we return Kristin to them, this is not over,” he said. “We have committed to them that we are not going to stop until Kristin has been recovered, no matter what the cost, no matter what the time.”
Smart was a 19-year-old freshman when she vanished on Memorial Day weekend of 1996. She had gone to an off-campus party and was making the roughly 10-minute walk back to her dormitory with two other students when, the students later told police, Flores appeared and promised to see her back to her room.
Smart was never seen again.
Flores and his family have steadfastly maintained his innocence. Last month, Flores’ mother reiterated the claim, telling a television reporter, “We have no responsibility for her disappearance and what happened to that young woman.”