Investigators find ‘items of interest’ in search for woman missing almost 24 years
Paul Vercammen, Stella Chan and Theresa Waldrop, CNN
(CNN) — Investigators in the case of Kristin Smart, a woman missing for almost 24 years in California, found “items of interest” in a search carried out Wednesday.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office issued the search warrant “for specific items of evidence at the Los Angeles County home of Paul Flores,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. Flores has been identified as a person of interest in the case, and the last person to see Smart.
Investigators carried out a search of Flores’ home in February, and that led to Wednesday’s warrant, according to Tony Cipolla, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.
“The search is now concluded and we recovered some items of interest in the case,” Cipolla told CNN. “We are following up on leads, tips and good investigative work.”
Flores was detained at his San Pedro, California home and released back to his home after the search, which began at 7 a.m. PT and ended at 10:30 a.m. PT, Cipolla said.
CNN has attempted to reach Flores for comment.
Smart was a 19-year-old freshman when she disappeared on May 25, 1996. She was last seen near her Cal Polytechnic San Luis Obispo dorm, police said, after walking home from a party.
A massive search and repeated interviews with a student who walked with her that night yielded no breaks, and Smart was declared dead in 2002.
Smart’s disappearance attracted public interest after a podcast called “Your Own Backyard,” which looked into the disappearance, gained popularity in 2019.
The Record newspaper in Stockton, California — where Smart was from — suggested there may be a new break in solving the case in an article published on January 18. In the story, Smart’s mother, Denise, said the family had been contacted by an ex-FBI agent, who told relatives to prepare for a break in the case.
“Be ready. This is really going to be something you don’t expect. We want to give you the support you need,” the mother recalled the former agent telling her.
The February searches, which included four locations — three in California and one in Washington state — were issued about two weeks after the article came out.
The warrant issued on Wednesday is sealed, as were the February warrants, meaning the sheriff’s office can’t disclose any details about them, “including items sought or recovered during the process,” the sheriff’s office said in its release.
“This continues to be an active and on-going investigation.”