Fourteen years ago, police in Redondo Beach were called to a hospital where a woman had come after waking up in a stranger’s bed, naked and with no memory of what had happened. She believed she had been raped.
An examination confirmed she’d had sex with a man. Police uploaded his DNA profile to a law enforcement database and, a few years later, it matched to a name: Paul Ruben Flores.
Redondo detectives opened a rape investigation into Flores. Although he was not charged in the case, the DNA hit sounded alarms 200 miles north in San Luis Obispo, where Flores was the prime suspect in the enduring mystery of Kristin Smart’s disappearance and presumed death.
Smart, a 19-year-old freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had vanished on Memorial Day weekend in 1996. She was last seen walking with Flores, a classmate, but without sufficient evidence tying him to the crime, he remained free.
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