The family of a California college student who disappeared nearly three decades ago sued the school Thursday, alleging that it caused Kristin Smart’s death through negligence.
Smart, then 19, disappeared from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo on the state’s scenic Central Coast over Memorial Day weekend in 1996. Her remains have never been found, but she has been declared legally dead in 2002.
Paul Flores was arrested in 2021, convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 and sentenced last year to 25 years to life in state prison.
Prosecutors said Flores killed Smart during an attempted rape on May 25, 1996, in his dorm room at the university, where they were both first-year students. She was the last person seen with Smart as she walked home with him from an off-campus party.
On Thursday, Smart’s parents, brother and sister sued the university for wrongful death and negligence, saying officials could have prevented his death if they had investigated the police reports the university filed. of four female students. Those students said that Flores was courting and harassing them in the months before Smart was eliminated.
In one case, Flores allegedly tried to break into a student’s apartment, according to the lawsuit.
The reports should have prompted the university to investigate, and suspend or expel Flores, removing him from campus housing and sending him home “miles away from Kristin and the dorm room where he killed her,” the lawsuit says.
“If the university had acted properly, conducted a thorough investigation into Flores’ past conduct, and implemented appropriate disciplinary measures, Kristin would likely still be alive today. However, our family has been left to mourn his loss for 27 painful years,” the family said in a statement.
The lawsuit also alleges that the university failed to conduct a proper and timely investigation into Smart’s disappearance, including failing to seal Flores’ dorm room and allow it to be cleaned before it was searched 16 days after Smart disappeared.
In an email, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said the university has no comment because “this is a pending legal matter.”
However, in May, university President Jeffrey Armstrong publicly apologized to the family for how it handled the investigation into her disappearance.
“While it’s a different administration now than the one in place in 1996, we know things need to be done differently — and I personally hope they do,” he said.
The family only became aware of Cal Poly’s alleged negligence after the apology because relatives did not have access to the university’s investigative file, according to the lawsuit.
“Even today, Smart’s family still does not know what information, held by the president of Cal Poly, and uniquely applicable to him and or Cal Poly, has led him to apologize,” the suit said.