Details of Disappearance Smart was a freshman architecture major at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California in 1996. She departed from an off-campus party and headed for her dormitory at approximately 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. on May 25, 1996. At the party, Smart was acting as if she was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. When she left the gathering, she was having trouble walking.
Smart was accompanied by a female acquaintance and another student from the university, Paul R. Flores, when she left the party. Photos of Flores are posted with this case summary. He was a food science major at Cal Poly in 1996. Smart apparently met Flores at the party earlier in the evening. Her friend separated from Smart and Flores at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue on the college campus.
Flores allegedly told Smart's friend that he would see Smart to her home. She was last seen walking north on Grand Avenue with Flores, towards Muir Hall, her dormitory. Smart has never been heard from again. She was not carrying any identification, cash or personal belongings at the time she vanished.
Flores was reportedly seen with a black eye later in the day on May 25. When questioned about Smart's whereabouts by authorities, Flores claimed that he continued walking to his own dormitory and last saw Smart on Grand Avenue shortly after her other friend departed.
Flores told several different stories to law enforcement regarding how he received his injury. At one time he claimed he had hurt his eye playing basketball with a friend, but the friend told authorities Flores had had the bruise when he arrived at the game. When confronted with the lie, Flores changed his story and told police he had hurt his eye while working on a truck at his father's home. He allegedly told another friend that he did not know how he got the black eye and that he "just woke up with it."
Smart's roommate contacted police later in the morning of May 25, worried because Smart had not returned to her dormitory. The roommate had been at the room the night Smart was last seen, and never saw her get back home. Her clothing, toiletries, cosmetics, medicine and identification were left undisturbed in her room; there is no evidence that she made it back there.
Authorities refused to take the missing persons report for four days, because Smart disappeared on Memorial Day weekend and college students often take impromptu vacations at that time. Smart's parents have criticized authorities for not getting involved in the case sooner, saying they probably lost valuable evidence because of it. Police admit the delay hampered the investigation.
Flores dropped out of Cal Poly shortly after Smart disappeared. He had been making very poor grades and was in danger of failing out of the university, and he had also gotten arrested for driving while intoxicated and lost his driver's license. He removed his belongings from his dormitory room at Santa Lucia Hall prior to a search of the premises by law enforcement. Cadaver dogs utilized by authorities led them to Flores's mattress in his former room during the investigation, but no additional evidence was located at the time.
Investigators have repeatedly questioned Flores regarding Smart's case since 1996, but he has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer. They offered him a plea deal where he would plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and reveal the location of Smart's body in exchange for a six-year prison term, but he refused the offer. Flores is the prime and only suspect in Smart's disappearance, but authorities do not have enough evidence at their disposal to charge him in the case.
The Smart family has persisted in their efforts to get investigators to come up with evidence against Flores. A friend of the Smarts, Dennis Mahon, has published a website which gives Flores's address and tracks him whenever he changes residences. The Flores family has a restraining order against him and he was jailed at least once for violating it. In 2005, Flores's mother and her boyfriend sued Smart's parents and Mahon, alleging harassment, severe emotional distress and lost income as a result of their behavior.
Smart's case is open and unsolved. Her family held a memorial service for her in May 2001, and again in June 2003. She was declared dead in May 2002. Smart's family attempted to pursue a civil suit against Flores for Smart's wrongful death, but dropped the case in 1996 after Flores pleaded his Fifth Amendment rights during the proceedings. Smart's family has since revived the suit, which has yet to go to trial. They continue to place pressure on Flores to speak to authorities regarding any possible knowledge he may have about their daughter's disappearance.
Flores has no record of violent crimes, but has been charged with drunk driving three times since Smart disappeared, in addition to the charge from before she vanished. People who knew him while he was a student at Cal Poly stated he drank heavily in 1996 and had a tendency to become obnoxious when intoxicated, and that he was not popular with the other students.
In 2003, suggestions were made that Scott Peterson might be linked to Smart. Scott Peterson's wife, Laci, disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002, and her torso was found in the Pacific Ocean in May 2003. Scott was later convicted of murdering her. Both Laci and Scott Peterson attended Cal Poly; they were seniors at the school when Smart disappeared. Police investigated possible ties between Scott Peterson and Smart and announced that there was nothing to link him to Smart's disappearance.
Smart is described as friendly and generous. She is a competitive swimmer and had traveled to many places, including Hawaii and South America, prior to her disappearance. She had originally enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but transferred to Cal Poly early in her freshman year. Her case remains unsolved. Foul play is suspected due to the circumstances involved.
- San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Los Angeles Office
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 25, 2017; two pictures added.