Person of interest in Kristin Smart disappearance busted on gun charge

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The lone person of interest in the disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart has been arrested on a weapons charge 25 years after she vanished without a trace, police said.

Paul Flores, 43, of San Pedro, was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles’ harbor area on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

Flores has a previous felony DUI conviction, KSBY reported.

Flores — the last known person to see Smart alive when she went missing from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo in 1996 — was taken into custody following search warrants executed at his home last year as part of the ongoing investigation into her disappearance, sheriff officials said.

The FBI and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office served search warrants at several residences in two states connected to Flores last February. Another search warrant was executed at Flores’ Los Angeles County home in April. All of the search warrants have remained sealed, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Sources told the newspaper investigators conducted the searches to get evidence, including DNA, that may reveal what happened to Smart. Flores, who also attended the school, was last seen walking on a path to the college’s dorms with the 19-year-old freshman when she disappeared, the newspaper reported.

Flores was questioned when Smith went missing but has not been charged in her disappearance. He has refused to cooperate with investigators since initially being interviewed at the time, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

Smart was declared dead in 2002, although her body has not been found.

A spokesman for her family, meanwhile, declined to comment on Flores’ arrest, the Tribune reported.

Relatives of Smart, who was from Stockon, have sued Flores in civil court, but he has denied allegations of being involved in her disappearance. A San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s spokesman, Tony Cipolla, said he “continues to be a person of interest” in Smart’s case, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“There are no other suspects,” former San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ed Williams reportedly said of Flores in 1997.

Flores has been released from custody since posting $35,000 bond late Thursday, CBS News reported. It’s unclear if he’s hired an attorney who could comment on the weapons charge.

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