Kristin Smart’s family sues Cal Poly, citing negligence in murder case

Kristin Smart’s family sues Cal Poly, citing negligence in murder case

Kristin Smart’s parents and two siblings have filed a lawsuit against Cal Poly claiming the university is partly responsible for her murder.

Smart was a freshman at Cal Poly when she disappeared in 1996 on Memorial Day weekend after leaving an off-campus party. She was walked back to her Muir Hall dorm by several people, including Paul Flores, who was the last person to be seen with her.

Monterey County Superior Court

Paul Flores was convicted of Smart’s murder in October 2022 and was sentenced in March 2023 to 25 years to life in prison, nearly 27 years after Smart disappeared.

The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 18, 2024 with the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse and claims negligence, emotional distress and wrongful death against the university.

The lawsuit comes nearly eight months after Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong publicly apologized to the family for the first time, saying, “We recognize that things should have been done differently — and I personally wish that they had.”

The lawsuit claims “Cal Poly breached its legal duty by not pursuing a missing person case promptly, not interviewing witnesses timely, not sealing the primary suspect’s dorm room as a crime scene, allowing the suspect’s room to be sanitized and cleaned before it was searched, and did not search the suspect’s room until sixteen days after Kristin disappeared.”

According to the lawsuit, the Smart family has never had access to Cal Poly’s investigative file on Smart, and they started realizing Cal Poly’s failings and wrongdoings in Kristin’s murder after the president’s public apology, saying “Even now, the Smart family still does not know what information, in the possession of Cal Poly’s President, and uniquely available to him and or Cal Poly, led him to make the apology.”

Nearly a month after Smart’s disappearance, Cal Poly police turned the case over to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, and hundreds of volunteers went on an organized search for her on June 29. The student’s remains have never been found, and on May 25, 2002, exactly six years after she disappeared, she was declared legally dead.

The Smart family claims Cal Poly failed to properly investigate Kristin’s disappearance. They allege two of Smart’s friends reported her missing to the Cal Poly Police Department the very next day, and that the department failed to take the report, saying they would wait to proceed with a missing person report until after the holiday weekend, and suggesting that maybe Smart had left town.

“Not knowing where Kristin’s remains are has prevented the family from ever feeling peace and has continued to give Flores power over them,” the lawsuit states.

The family did not request a specific amount in damages in the lawsuit, and requested that the amount be proven at trial.

“Cal Poly’s failures are indefensible, and it must be held accountable to prevent this cycle of callous negligence from ever occurring again,” the lawsuit continued.

Scripps News has reached out to Cal Poly Spokesperson Matt Lazier, who said the university did not have comment on the lawsuit as it is a pending legal matter.

To access the lawsuit, click here.

This story was originally published by Ashton McIntyre on Scripps News San Luis Obispo.