Witnesses included Smart’s parents and former college students

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Monday, Aug. 3, marked the first day of the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores. 

The father and son, Paul (44) and Ruben (80) Flores, were arrested in April in connection with the 1996 murder and accessory after the fact of Kristin Smart. 

The hearing is expected to last three weeks.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

After several delays, the hearing came to order at approximately 10:30 a.m. 

Denise Smart, Kristin’s mother, was the first witness called to the stand by Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle. The prosecutor started by asking Denise questions about herself and Kristin’s role in the family. Then, he asked Denise if Kristin was the type to run away. 

Three photos were submitted to evidence and shown to Denise, who began crying when she looked at the first photo showing the Smart family, including Denise, her husband Stan, and three children, in Hawaii in January of 1995, about a year-and-a-half before Kristin went missing at the age of 19 from the Cal Poly campus.

The second photo was a picture of Kristin with blonde hair in 1995 and the third photo of her on spring break in 1996 with her hair dyed brown.

Peuvrelle asked Denise about her relationship with her daughter. 

“Kristin felt like a gift to our family,” Denise replied, describing Kristin as energetic and the best hugger.

Denise said the last time she spoke with her daughter, Kristin was concerned about getting an incomplete in one of her classes because her Scantron test form had been lost.

That Friday, Denise testified that Kristin left a voicemail saying she had good news and would call her mom on Sunday, but the call never came.

According to Denise, she said her husband, Stand Smart, drove down from Northern California to look for their daughter and spent most of the summer of 1996 in San Luis Obispo.

Denise testified that the first thing she did was contact Cal Poly and the university’s president’s office but was told they did not know anything about her daughter’s disappearance.

Denise said she then called university police and was told they had no info.

She then reportedly turned to the FBI in Los Angeles and was in touch with its sexual assault task force. Denise says the task force reached out to Cal Poly and was told everything was “under control” and the FBI’s help was not needed.

During Denise’s testimony, Paul Flores’s attorney, Robert Sanger, continually objected for relevance and hearsay.

After a short break, the court reconvened for cross examination at around 11:30 a.m.

Sanger questioned Denise if she knew Kristin was applying to modeling jobs under the name “Roxy” and Denise replied with, “no.”

Denise then denied knowing much, if anything, prior to last month about Kristin having boyfriends while at college.

After Sanger, Denise was questioned by Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores’s attorney.

Mesick questioned whether Denise knew Kristin was missing for some time while working as a lifeguard in Hawaii, and Denise denied knowing anything about it.

The defense said it plans to call Denise back to the stand for more questioning at a later date.

After a break, Stan Smart, Kristin’s father, was called to the stand. 

Stan described his relationship with Kristin as being a close one. He said he spent more than two months searching for his daughter. Stan described the Cal Poly Police Department as “ill-equipped” to handle a missing person or homicide case.

While being cross-examined by Sanger, Stan was asked if Kristin had a desire to be a model and move to Thailand. Stand testified that Kristin mentioned she wanted to go back to Thailand but was under the impression that it was for school.

While searching for his daughter and following tips, Stan said he heard about Paul Flores’s possible involvement with Kristin’s disappearance. 

Stan testified that he went to Ruben Flores’s Arroyo Grande home to talk, but when he drove up, Stan says Ruben came out of the house yelling, “You need to get out of here, or someone could get shot.”

Stan then pointed at Ruben in court. 

Sanger then asked Stan if he also went to Scott Peterson’s home, suggesting Scott and Laci Peterson were at the same party Kristin was last seen. 

Then Sanger continued to question Stan about other men in Kristin’s life around her disappearance. Sanger also suggested Kristin was reported for stalking a man at a bookstore. The judge repeatedly sustained Peurvelle’s objections to Sangers claims.

The court heard a motion to quash on behalf of Susan Flores, Paul’s mother. Jeffry Radding, Susan’s attorney, submitted the motion. 

Susan will be pleading the Fifth and not be taking the stand as a witness in her son and ex-husband’s case.

Later, two more witnesses were called to the stand. 

Eric, a Cal Poly student in 1996, said he attended a party on Crandall Way in San Luis Obispo that Kristin Smart attended the night she disappeared, and Kendra, a Cuesta College student at the time, said she also attended the party.

Both identified Paul in court.

Eric said Paul was “a little standoffish, looking around the back of the room,” but adds that he never spoke directly to Paul that night. However, Eric said he did join a conversation Paul was having with some of his female friends, saying they looked uncomfortable.

During cross-examination, Mesick asked Eric if he remembers any women who were at the party.

Eric responded by saying he remembered one woman specifically. Mesick then asked if that is because he listened to the “My Backyard” podcast. Eric said he does not know the podcast. 

Kendra then took the stand. 

She described her experience with Paul Flores when she asked him for a piece of gum. Kendra said she and Paul began kissing before someone yelled at them to “get a room.”

Feeling embarrassed, Kendra followed Paul to the backyard because Paul said he had gum in his car. He then made a move on Kendra, which she declined and pushed him before leaving.

Later at the same party, Kendra said she saw Kristin fall in the hallway with Paul standing over her.

Kendra testified that she then pulled Kristin outside and warned her to stay away from Paul because she was concerned for her safety. She described Kristin as being “highly intoxicated” and unable to care for herself. 

Later that night, Kendra saw Kristin in the driveway of a nearby home and offered to walk her home, but Kristin declined, saying she was waiting for someone.

A few weeks later, Kendra said she called Cal Poly Police after seeing information on Kristin’s disappearance on the news. That was when Kendra learned her name was Kristin because, at the party, she introduced herself as “Roxy.”

During cross-examination by Sanger, Kendra explained she was not interviewed by law enforcement until 2014 but was interviewed by campus police in 1996.

Sanger asked if Kendra spoke with Christ Lambert, creator of the Your Own Backyard podcast and if she knew he had made this case his “personal crusade.”

Kendra confirmed she had spoken to Chris Lambert.

When Mesick cross-examined Kendra, he asked if she knew how Kristin got home that night because of the podcase (Your Own Backyard).

Kendra said she saw how she got home on the news before the podcast came out.

At the end of the hearing late Monday afternoon, a discussion regarding unsealing documents was brought up, but no final decisions were made.

The hearing will continue in person at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3. 

The names of all witnesses mentioned will be addressed by first name only to protect their identity in accordance with court orders.