National news was made this week in San Luis Obispo when charges were filed in a 25-year old cold case involving a former Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student, Kristin Smart, who was murdered in 1996.
This week, Smart’s classmate Paul Flores, the last person who saw her alive, was charged with murder by the San Luis Obispo County D.A.
His father Ruben Flores was charged as an accessory to the crime.
If there was one person who wasn’t surprised by the arrests, it would be retired Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. Sergeant Paul Dostie.
Seven years ago, he took Buster, his aging Human Remains Detection dog, down to Arroyo Grande, Calif. to search for Kristin Smart.
A reporter named David Smallwood tagged along.
According to a story published in the Daily Beast in 2016, “Buster signaled twice that he had found someone while sniffing around the fence line separating a neighbor’s home from Susan Flores’s property.
Buster by this time was hobbling along—having lost his right hind leg to cancer—and going through the backyard of Flores’s neighbor, along the wooden fence line on top of a 5-foot-high cinder block retaining wall. Smart’s remains are believed to be buried in close proximity to that retaining wall.
“There’s human decomposition in that backyard,” Dostie announced.
… “We collected the soil samples and ran them and I’m sure
we found evidence of human decomposition,” he said, referring to chemical compounds such as carbon tetrachloride, benzene, and pentanal emitted by human decomposition.
“I want to make it very clear—I’m not saying Kristin is there,” Dostie insisted. “But it’s never been resolved by the sheriff’s office and they’ve completely ignored it through three sheriffs including this one.
When Buster alerted there why didn’t they get their dogs and run them to see if they obtained the same result? Why didn’t the FBI do the same?”
The Sheet asked Dostie this week why he believes it’s taken 25 years to make arrests in the case.
He replied by giving another man’s theory – David Smallwood.
“He believes it’s all about the college,” said Dostie. “That the college didn’t want to be culpable for her murder … college in San Luis Obispo amounts to a multimillion dollar industry.”
Further, Dostie feels the lack of an independent press in San Luis Obispo means there’s no one really holding the Sheriff accountable.
As to why Buster’s alerting at the site didn’t prompt more reaction at the time, Dostie said, “I’m under attack all the time. They don’t want to acknowledge the retired guy from Mammoth Lakes coming to solve their case.”
“All these Sheriffs are alike,” he harrumphed.
Buster died in 2016, but not before he made headlines for several high-profile excavations.
From the Daily Beast story: “Marine First Lt. Alexander “Sandy” Bonnyman Jr. was killed fighting the Japanese in the Battle of Tarawa in 1943. Bonnyman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, but his body was never recovered.
That was until Buster, the black Labrador from Mammoth Lakes, California, arrived on Tarawa on a mission teaming up with the POW-MIA group History Flight.
Buster prowled the almost 300-acre island’s crushed coral turf and had several alerts in a straight line indicating the possibility of a trench burial carved out by a bulldozer.
The site was excavated in 2015 after Buster found Bonnyman and 47 of his fellow missing-in-action comrades who were recovered and brought home to American soil.”
According to a New York Times story published Wednesday, “In March, the [San Luis Obispo] Sheriff’s Office said it had obtained a warrant to search for evidence at Ruben Flores’s residence, and they used cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar to canvass the property. Additional evidence related to Ms. Smart’s case was discovered at the site, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Susan and Ruben Flores are divorced and have maintained separate residences for many years.