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San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson gives update on Kristin Smart case

Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 23, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped detectives from investigating the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart.

The Cal Poly freshman was last seen walking back to her dorm. Authorities said Arroyo Grande native Paul Flores was the last person to be seen with her and is a person-of-interest in the case.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said detectives are continuing to push this case forward, focusing on what they can prove and not necessarily what people may believe.

Sheriff Parkinson couldn't go into detail about the search warrants served at Flores' San Pedro home on Wednesday, but did say they were looking for a specific item at his house.

"I think some people are under the impression that a search warrant gets you everywhere and it really doesn't," Parkinson said. "It is targeting something that you are articulating to a judge that it is there and it is relevant to the case."

We don't know what they took from Flores' house during Wednesday's or February's search, but Sheriff Parkinson said today's technology now plays a role.

"As technology develops, so does our ability to examine technology as well and see if it has anything of relevance," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted business around the world, impacting available resources from other agencies and even delaying some evidence and DNA processing.

"It is lab to lab, but it certainly can [hinder us] if they're reducing their staffing because of COVID-19 or completely shutting down," Parkinson said. "If the lab is still working, it could be a benefit. They can get caught up without a significant number of new cases coming in."

However, the Major Crimes Unit, a team focused on significant unsolved crimes, remains virtually untouched even as other sectors like Narcotics and the Gang Task Force are deployed to keep the community safe from inmates recently released on zero-bail.

"[The Major Crimes Unit has] a lot of work to do and COVID-19 doesn't stop that," Parkinson said. "You work around the slow down in some cases."

Sheriff Parkinson also addressed the reason for staying tight-lipped about the Smart investigation.

"This a national news case, as information is disseminated and then transmitted, and that's something that can damage the case currently in the investigative phase and any future attempt to prosecute," he said.

However, he said the attention can also be a good thing.

"The more people that know about and that might have some information to come forward, the more it adds to that puzzle."

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office's main goal is to bring closure to Kristin's parents, Stan and Denise Smart.

Sheriff Parkinson said it's hard to tell when an arrest might be made in connection to Kristin's disappearance, but detectives are working to get more information every day.

The 24th anniversary of Kristin Smart's disappearance is May 25.