NewsKristin Smart Case


Experts explain how cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar can help in a cold case

Posted at 11:32 PM, Mar 15, 2021

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office utilized more than just detectives at the home of Ruben Flores, Monday. Cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar could also be seen searching around the home.

This is not the first time either of these tools has been used in this case.

Cadaver dogs from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office alerted to the door of a 1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet, last registered to Ruben and Susan Flores.

For cadaver dog trainer and former U.S. Border Patrol Officer Roy Lopez, he says even after years have gone by cadaver dogs can still pick up a scent.

"The scent they detect is still very detectable after even 100s of years. So [they could still detect a scent] in a cold case of 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, depending on the environmental factors and stuff like that," Lopez said.

Cadaver dogs were used previously in the case back in 1996 at Cal Poly. At that time, dogs alerted to items inside the dorm room Paul Flores was living in when Kristin Smart disappeared, according to investigators.

Lopez says cadaver dogs are an irreplaceable, invaluable tool for search and recovery efforts.

"In a cold case, they'll have numerous different areas they'll want to search. Just visually searching with a human is very limited whereas if you can take a dog out there, you can search the area very thoroughly in a short amount of time," Lopez said.

Investigators also used ground-penetrating radar Monday.

Matthew Wolf, president of ImpulseRadar, says people will often use the device in a grid pattern searching for inconsistencies in the soil.

"If you have soil layers and they look contiguous and all of a sudden you dig a pit and back-fill it, it will never reorient itself to what the native soil looks like," Wolf explained.

Wolf says the device's display is different than you may think.

"If there was a body in a shallow grave, you might see a blob that's different. Dimensionally, it might be proportional to human form, length-wise, but you're really going to see mostly the burial - not the actual human," Wolf said.

Ground-penetrating radar was previously used in 2000 at the home of Susan Flores, but after digging in Flores's backyard seven years later, no evidence was found that smart was buried there.

A search warrant has been served at Ruben Flores's home several times, with one warrant as recent as February of 2020.