CalCoastNews’ top stories of 2021

January 2, 2022

Mayor Heidi Harmon, photo by Richard Bastian


A partisan battle over redistricting, Kristin Smart’s alleged killer arrested, marijuana mogul admits he paid bribes to a county supervisor and a controversial plan to stop off-roading at the Oceano Dunes — these were some of San Luis Obispo County’s top stories of 2021.

Paul Flores

1. Paul Flores arrested for murder, accused of multiple rapes

After more then 20 years, SLO County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Paul Flores for the murder of Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart, whose parents never gave up on justice. Charged with accessory after the fact, Paul Flores’ father Ruben Flores is suspected of helping his son dispose of Smart’s body.

Investigators discovered human blood under Ruben Flores’ home in 2021. They also found fabric fibers in the place where they believe the body was buried.

During a raid of Paul Flores’ San Pedro home, deputies discovered multiple videos he made of himself allegedly raping drugged or intoxicated women and two types of date rape drugs. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office is considering filing rape charges against Flores following his murder trial, which is scheduled to begin on April 25.

Helios Dayspring

2. Marijuana mogul admits paying bribes, cheating on his taxes

Ending any doubts former SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill extorted local business owners, marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud in October 2021. Dayspring admitted to bribing Hill and attempting to bribe former Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals.

Dayspring agreed to plead guilty to two felony offenses, pay $3.4 million in restitution to the IRS, spend up to 13 years in prison and cooperate in the FBI’s ongoing public corruption investigation.

In 2016, CalCoastNews first reported allegations Hill was asking marijuana business owners to pay bribes in return for favorable votes. Reporting that prompted both the SLO New Times and the Tribune to write articles defending Dayspring, a prolific advertiser to those publications.

3. Why did SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon resign?

Amid allegations she took gifts from marijuana businessman Helios Dayspring, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon resigned less than a year into her mayoral term. Harmon suggested she had to choose between taking a job with a nonprofit or serving as mayor, even though the vast majority of mayors in SLO County have full time jobs.

When asked if the FBI investigation into corruption and the arrest of Dayspring had influenced her decision to step down, Harmon claimed she was not under investigation and that she properly reported Dayspring’s donations.

In 2018, CalCoastNews reported Harmon had failed to report a Dayspring donation, prompting Harmon to amend her financial disclosure report.

4. Battle over off-roading at the Oceano Dunes headed to court

The California Coastal Commission voted in March to phase out off-road vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes over the next three years.

The commission first became critical of off-roading at the dunes because of a claim by the San Luis Obispo County’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) that dust blowing from the dunes contains silica, a carcinogen. After 10 years of warning Nipomo residents of the dangers of silica dust, the APCD ran tests for silica in the air, which refuted their earlier claim.

Following the commission’s decision, Friends of the Oceano Dunes slapped the Coastal Commission with a lawsuit alleging the agency violated laws and exceeded its authority when it voted to stop off-road vehicle recreation at the Oceano Dunes. The case is now in the court’s hands.

Detective Luca Benedetti

5. San Luis Obispo police officer shot, killed

A gunman shot and killed San Luis Obispo police detective Luca Benedetti and wounded another officer.

On May 10, six officers attempted to serve a search warrant at burglary suspect Edward Zamora Giron’s apartment. When Giron did not respond to police, officers broke down the door of the apartment and found him lying in wait.

A shootout ensued, during which Giron shot and killed Benedetti. Officer Steve Orozco was shot multiple times but survived. Giron died at the scene.

The autopsy found Giron was shot 10 times from the front and four times from behind.

Edward Giron’s mother Caroline Wichman has since filed a wrongful death claim. Wichman alleges in her claim that officers mishandled the tactical entry of Giron’s house. SLO police personnel and other law enforcement officers shot Giron out of revenge when he was no longer a threat to public safety and killed him unlawfully, Wichman alleges.

6. Conservatives win redistricting battle, opponents threaten lawsuit

Split along party lines, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to make substantial changes to the supervisorial districts, resulting in a likely Republican advantage for the next ten years.

The two Democrats on the board, supervisors Bruce Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg,  supported not making any changes, noting if it’s not broke why fix it. Liberal speakers accused those supporting major changes of attempting to steal the board.

Republican supervisors Lynn Compton, Debbie Arnold and John Peschong promoted redistricting the entire county to further follow current laws while arguing the previous map was gerrymandered.

While the county continues to have three districts that lean Republican and two with Democratic majorities, District 4 gains an approximate 5% conservative advantage.

Shortly after the Board of Supervisors voted for the new district map, a newly formed nonprofit announced plans to file a legal challenge.


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Ok GreatGuy, I’ll bite. First, these aren’t rumors. They are allegations. Learn the difference. Second, what in there is unfounded? She DID have to amend her paperwork she originally said she did properly. She DID do a fundraiser at a dudes house and took money from a crook who ADMITTED to BRIBING local officials and lying to the govt. What part of all that isn’t allowing the part of you that connects 2 plus 2, to not see 4 here?

What is unfounded, or YET to be founded is the extent of what was learned in these investigations. Also why amid them all, Heidi abruptly needed to leave office less than 1/2 into her term. She let a lot of supporters down. Sounds like she let you down too. Take it up with her. Not those reporting on her.


Well stated. Thank you.

Tyler Durden

Worth investigating further

Counterpoint, listening to Harmon on KVEC years ago, climate change was her nom de guerre. She was intense, fanatical. Easy to see why she left the mayor’s post to follow her calling.


And Harmon was unethical by taking the pot gift for herself and violated city compliance and ethics policy. She took gifts and didn’t consume them with the folks at City Hall. Per Code of Ethics: City of SLO paragraph IIc.

“C. Acceptance of Favors and Gratuities. Employees should not accept

money or other consideration or favors from anyone other than the City for an act

which they would be required or expected to perform in the regular course of their

duties nor should employees accept any gifts, gratuities, including meals, or favors

of any kind from individuals or firms doing business or proposing to do business

with the City if, considering all the circumstances involved in a given situation,

acceptance of said gifts, gratuities or favors would give the impression that possible

preference or special privilege is being sought or given.

1. Individual employees should not accept gifts from department clientele.

Gifts are objects or services that have a material value.

Example: Individual employees should not accept gifts such as candy,

flowers, food or liquor from people who deal with their department.

2. The department or division may accept small gifts when they can be

consumed at the work place, are in keeping with the occasion and are made

available to all personnel.

Examples: The department could accept a box of candy at Christmas.”

She drew a modest salary from the City of SLO, so she must follow the same ethics as every other city employee.

How’s that for investigating?


The article about Heidi Harmon makes insinuations suggesting criminal wrongdoing but provides no conclusive evidence. That’s just plain bad reporting and bad editing. This is a perfect example of why so many people do not trust CalCoastNews. They shouldn’t be asking a question that they can’t answer, especially when the question is just a cheap and flimsy way to make an unfounded accusation against someone that the Cal Coast news team has a personal feud against. This is irresponsible journalism at its most obvious.


Were you this upset when the left-wing media did that to President Trump? Smears about completely unfounded russian collusion etc?


So Heidi did not accept $1000 worth of weed from Dayspring?


What exactly are you saying is not true about the article? The Truth is CCN is the most accurate reporting I have read! The Fibune sure doesn’t tell the truth. I know for fact They don’t bother to do investigations, nor seek the truth before reporting. At least CCN makes an effort to find out what is really happening. I wonder why you are hear reading CCN if you think its irresponsible journalism?


It’s bad enough we even waste a comment on Heidi the narcissist quitter, but to defend her is complete lunacy.

It’s very possible the other FBI shoe is yet to drop. You might be eating your words. I’m sure you’ll apologize publicly to Karen and CCN if in fact the allegations are true.


It’s bad enough we waste a comment on Heidi the narcissist quitter, but to defend her is complete lunacy.

It might very well be that the other FBI shoe is yet to drop. You might be eating your words. I’m sure you’ll apologize publicly to Karan and CCN if in fact the allegations are true. She’s been a shady character from the beginning with her deceitful actions as mayor of SLO.


Watching Heidi Harmon slip from relevancy has been fascinating. She has lost over 1000 followers on her Instagram which she absolutely treasures and clings to as her last pedestal. She tried to raise $1000 for her ‘Lets Green’ mumbo jumbo and literally raised only 60 bucks. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was her own donation. She’s toothless and impotent as a leader, and without the word, ‘Mayor’ on her business card, she’s proving to not even be a good activist! There is no way she would have left her mayoral soapbox had she not been behaving shady and sketchy.