Susan Flores, the mother of Paul Flores, law enforcement's "prime suspect" in the investigation into the disappearance of Kristin Smart, spoke to KSBY on Tuesday for her first-ever media interview.
Smart was last seen on May 25, 1996 after returning to campus from a fraternity party in San Luis Obispo. Witnesses said Paul Flores was the last person to be seen with her.
The interview comes on the heels of search warrants being served at Ruben Flores' home in Arroyo Grande on March 15 and 16. Ruben, Paul's father, and Susan have lived in separate homes in the Arroyo Grande area for decades.
Susan Flores spoke exclusively with KSBY reporter Megan Healy after investigators wrapped up their search Tuesday afternoon.
Q: If you remember that day, May 25, 1996, what was that like? How did you guys hear about all of this?
A: "It was days after...we didn't know of anything going on. We didn't know until after the event of the disappearance of a young woman had happened until the campus police got involved...s o we didn't have an immediate focus on it. That came later," said Susan Flores.
Q: What was it that they took in the search warrants of your home, Ruben's home, Pauls' home in San Pedro, and your daughter's home in Washington back in February of 2020?
A: "Basically electronics, cell phones, computers. That was pretty much it. In my observation, they went through the house at least, photographed anything they wanted, got into my filing cabinets, got into attorney-client privilege items, they got into everything, they had a field day."
Q: What about Monday's and Tuesday's search? Are you guys surprised, how are you feeling about that?
A: "I kinda thought they were going to come for the Volkswagen because when they came last year to my house... the commander had some pictures on his phone that were sent to him from this garage... he had a couple of questions and yeah the Volkswagen was on there. So it didn't surprise me that they came and took it."
"They supposedly have two other trucks. If they have what used to be our family's truck, the Ranger was a trade-in, so it's not technically ours. The Nissan pickup was a stolen vehicle, which was our family vehicle, we gave it to Paul at some point, changed ownership, it was stolen from him. Therefore it is his vehicle, he was never paid off from an insurance company and if they have that vehicle, it is technically his vehicle. They have a stolen vehicle."
Q: Do you know if they took anything from this property today (Tuesday)? Why would they be searching these specific locations?
A: "I don't know if it came out of the podcast, or chit-chat, I have no idea. It's ridiculous. It's unfathomable. Why? How? I mean you see there are no fences here. No fences! And they are looking for remains of somebody? There has never been a fence up on this lot, just a little rail fence, it makes no sense. It's been a lot of harassment over the years. I don't necessarily think they are doing their jobs...but I guess they are...I don't know how to put it."
Q: Do you think the investigation over the last 25 years has been fair?
A: "No, oh no. There's a lot of things I could say, but I won't get into it because I'm sure we are gonna...well I don't know who will wind up in the court of the law. It's okay with me, you know because I would like to see the family have their answers. If it was my daughter I would want the answers...but they don't seem to get it. They keep trying to find the answers with us and they keep failing because the answers are not here. It is very simple. It is simple for me to say, because I know the answer is not here with me, not here with him (Ruben), not here with anybody. It's not here. I don't get it."
Q: In other words, are you saying you are innocent, Ruben is innocent, all are innocent?
A: "We have no responsibility for her disappearance and what happened to that young woman, and I've said it in a court of law."
Q: What do you think about the 'Your own Backyard' podcast?
A: "I can shoot a lot of holes into a lot of his lies. He had depositions in his possession and he has picked and chosen what he has wanted to use." Susan continues, "it's a crime podcast...I guess they are a flair right now, so he has added more and more to make it juicy...make people want to listen to it."
Q: Has he (Chris Lambert) attempted to contact you guys and get your story?
A: "Never once. Never been to my house. Never contacted me. Never. Never made any attempt, even through someone else, he's never called my attorney."
Q: Why do you think people believe it was your family or Paul that is responsible for the disappearance of Kristin Smart?
A: "They look at it as...there was a number of people who attended that party and they just focused on a few people that were maybe on her route....I don't know....from my understanding there were more than 60 people there, a lot of fraternity people. So I don't know. He has been the scapegoat."
Q: Are you planning to take more legal action possibly against the Smart family or the sheriff's office?
A: "You know what...none of it would make up 25 years. No amount of money in this world. No litigation is going to give back us 25 years of our lives, of the changes they made for us. If they believed that our son had some sort of responsibility they didn't have to gang up on us."
"I don't know if I was in their situation where I would have taken this.....first off this woman didn't disappear in Arroyo Grande...she disappeared in San Luis Obispo...but they made this community here because we live here. Now the neighbors have to put up with some of the inconveniences...all the people who came up here yesterday and today honking their horn taking their pictures. They've disturbed everybody that has lived here, making them uncomfortable in their surroundings, made them not feel safe."
Q: What do you want to say to viewers, the sheriff's office, the whole world who has been following this case?
A: "You know you can follow, and your heart can go out to people that are in sadness, but you can't go out there and just terrorize people, harass people, stalk people. To do stuff like this...it just doesn't sit well and I know they are hurting. I know they are, and they don't have any answers...but I can't solve it for them. I can't give them the answers that they want. I don't have them. And yet just time and time again they just go after my children..they go after Paul, they go after my daughter, they go after my husband...what are they gonna do go after my grandchildren next? They are little people."
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?
A: "I really hope Mr. and Mrs. Smart get their answers. To not know is probably devastating. And they really would never talk to us (Smarts) and the sheriff's don't talk to us either, because if they sit down with us, they have to sit down with an attorney and they won't do it. They won't talk to any of us. Ever. All of these years."
Q: What would you tell the sheriff's office?
A: "Well, they would have to ask the questions and we will see where we go from there."
Q: Finally talking after all these years...does it feel good to get this all out and do you think it will help?
A: "This is the first interview I've ever done in my life. I don't know if it will help. They've had different opportunities. I let them dig up my yard in 2007, they could have had a field day there. My yard is tiny over there, they could have taken up the whole yard but their insurance wouldn't pay for it...oh...but I've been accused of not letting them dig up the whole yard...oh no...the insurance wouldn't pay for it because there were no anomalies."
Q: What led you into doing this interview today?
A: "I am mad because they took my Volkswagen! That is my little restoration project. I love cars. I love old things and I wanted to do a restoration on that car. They didn't need to take it. They wanted to take it. It's private. They are coming in and taking your stuff.. at will...for any reason....you know having a search warrant done, you think we'd be used to it, but it is violating. You know they are in your house, scattering your stuff."
Q: Do you feel like this will set the record straight?
A: "This is far from setting the record straight...and someday... I don't know where this is going to go in the court of law. I don't like this case being tried by the media. This is not where the case should be. In the media, public opinion, deciding, oh these people are guilty."
"There are so many people missing in this world you know. You hate to think that maybe she (Denise Smart) is not going to get an answer...but maybe she won't, maybe she is just going to have to wait...because someday we will all be gone and we will be up there with God and she will get to see her daughter. I believe that. I believe in the ever after."
Q: Have you ever asked Paul, or talked to Paul and asked him if he knows anything?
A: "The conversations that have taken place with him are something that will sit quietly until...unfortunately we will see where all this is all going to lead...so all those aspects are not up for discussion. I don't have any reason to believe that anybody in our family has any answers to where she is, or what happened to her. Ultimately that is not up for discussion. As far as I am concerned this should have been over a long time ago. It shouldn't be happening over and over again."
Q: When all of this first started, why didn't you and your family come out and just say, "it wasn't us"?
A: "We did many times. I don't know why it wasn't received. Sheriff Parkinson has never called me and said can we have a conversation, no there is no reach out from them."
Q: How do you prove that Paul is innocent?
A: "It will be up to his attorney...if we go that far won't it...God knows he is, that is all that matters."
Q: Is there anything that you would do differently?
A: "No...my hands were tied...I didn't have any control...we didn't have anything. I don't have control of what other people do. I don't have control over what law enforcement does. I do not have control over people who harass and stalk and do things to us, and negative things...I don't have any control over that."
At the end of the interview, Susan Flores mentioned she is working on writing a book.
"I'm working on it. I'm putting it all together...there is a lot of things that life teaches. But yeah, I will write it and I will put it together. I'm just not really sure of all the aspects."
KSBY reached out to the Smart family spokesperson who said they have no comment at this time.
A statement from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office said, "The family has refused to speak to the sheriff's office. If and when they are prepared to do that, then we would welcome speaking to the family about what they know."
KSBY also reached out to Chris Lambert who said he never tried reaching out to the Flores family personally. Lambert did say that he sent a producer to try and contact Susan and Ruben in person during the production phase of the podcast "Your Own Backyard."
This story was originally published by Ashton McIntyre and Megan Healy at KSBY.