Family of Kristin Smart Sues Cal Poly for Negligence, Wrongful Death

The lawsuit claims Cal Poly police waited four days to investigate Smart’s disappearance and 16 days to inspect a suspect’s dorm room.

Family of Kristin Smart Sues Cal Poly for Negligence, Wrongful Death

Photo: Feng Yu - stock.adobe.com

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The family of a college freshman who disappeared from a California campus 28 years ago is suing the school for allegedly allowing the now-convicted killer to continue to attend the school despite previous accusations of harassment made against him.

Kristin Smart disappeared from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) in May 1996 after attending an off-campus party, Atascadero News reports. Her classmate, Paul Flores, was the prime suspect for decades as Smart was last seen walking back to her dorm with him.

Nearly 25 years later, in April 2021, new biological evidence led authorities to Flores. He was convicted of first-degree murder in Oct. 2022 and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in March 2023. Smart’s body has not been found.

The negligence and wrongful death lawsuit, filed last Thursday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, claims Cal Poly continued to let Flores attend even though other students accused him of “threatening, stalking and harassing behavior” before Smart disappeared, according to CNN. Prosecutors also allege Flores was a “serial rapist” in the years following Smart’s disappearance.

“If Cal Poly had properly acted on those reports, conducted an investigation, and appropriately disciplined the student, he would not have been on campus, and therefore would not have been able to murder Kristin,” the lawsuit states. “Flores also would have been prevented from assaulting and raping countless other women, in the years after he murdered Kristin.”

The lawsuit also claims Cal Poly police did not properly investigate Smart’s disappearance. The day after the party where Smart was last seen, her friends reported her missing to campus police. However, since it was Memorial Day weekend, they reportedly waited four days to investigate, suggesting Smart had left town or gone camping with friends.

The suit also alleges Cal Poly police did not interview witnesses in a timely manner or inspect Flores’ dorm room until 16 days after Smart had disappeared. Cal Poly still has not provided the family with the full investigation file, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, the family did not understand the extent of the “multitude of failings” by Cal Poly until May 2023 when its president publicly apologized to the family, stating,
“We recognize that things should have been done differently – and I personally wish that they had.”

Erin Reding, an attorney for the Smart family, told CNN that the family wants the school to take accountability.

“The university needs to take reports (of) threatening or harassing students more seriously, and reports of missing students more seriously. The levels of trauma that this family (has) been through are severe, and I think they’re incredibly courageous to still be fighting for Kristin many years later,” she said. “Cal Poly’s failures are indefensible, and it must be held accountable to prevent this cycle of callous negligence from ever occurring again.”

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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One response to “Family of Kristin Smart Sues Cal Poly for Negligence, Wrongful Death”

  1. Sgt. Jeff Weiss, Ret. says:

    Once again an alleged crime was reported to campus police rather than off campus law enforcement agencies and seems to be mishandled by the school police. Students and their parents need to understand that campus agencies generally do not have the training and resources to effectively investigate a crime (alleged) of this nature. Perhaps a suit of this nature and magnitude will encourage campus managers to insist that reports be made to off campus authorities first and on campus police, if appropriate, after.
    Perhaps this magazine should take a stand on this issue even though its prime source of revenue is campus management.

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