A candlelit vigil is held in honor of Kristin Smart. The crowd gathered outside Santa Lucia and Muir Halls on Cal Poly’s campus on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, the day that Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested for the murder of Smart. (MANDATORY CREDIT: Kyle Calzia / Mustang News)

Students held a vigil for Kristin Smart last night after the prime suspect was arrested for Smart’s murder earlier in the day.

More than 70 students attended the vigil on the lawn behind Santa Lucia, with some bringing flowers and lighting candles to honor Smart’s memory. 

“I put out a candle this morning in front of the building just to commemorate and celebrate the justice Kristin Smart received today,” Michelle Mueller, history freshman and host of the vigil said. “After hearing the news, my friends and I were talking about how we should just do a small thing.”

Video by Sofia Silvia

Mueller addressed the crowd multiple times, emphasizing what the case and recent events mean to her and her friends.

“It’s just a reminder to us all, especially college-age women that we have to look out for each other.”

Mueller placed a chalkboard and pens at the base of the memorial site, encouraging attendees to write messages on the board set amongst the flower bouquets, incense and candles. A few held candles and the crowd was mostly silent as they paid their respects.

Students lit candles and left flowers for Kristin Smart on the Santa Lucia lawn. Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

“[Smart] never got a proper funeral or a good celebration of life,” Ilana Tenberg, industrial technology and packaging freshman said. “I think [the vigil] means more for the family than it does for any of us, because we did not know her, but I think it’s really important to show people still care.”

Paul Flores was arrested on suspicion of murder Tuesday in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Smart. Paul’s father Ruben Flores was also arrested in Arroyo Grande this morning for accessory after the fact and is now held in San Luis Obispo County Jail with a $250,000 bail. Paul is being held without bail.

Paul was the last person seen with Smart, walking home from a party in the early hours of May 25, 1996. Nobody has seen or heard from her since, and she was legally declared dead in May 2002.

The case has been turned over to the San Luis Obispo County’s District Attorney’s office. Paul’s arraignment is scheduled for this Thursday. 

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