Day 2 of the trial has been postponed until Thursday due to health concerns
SAN LUIS OBISPO — Opening statements for the Kristin Smart murder trial began on Monday, with the prosecution starting at the case’s beginning — the Sunday night Stan and Denise Smart did not hear from their daughter.
Paul Flores, 45, is charged in connection to the 1996 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Paul was arrested in April 2021 — on the same day, his father, Ruben Flores, was arrested as an accessory after the fact — accused of helping his son hide Smart’s remains.
Smart was declared dead in 2002, but her remains have yet to be recovered.
While Paul and Ruben will be tried at the same time, they will have two different juries.
On Monday, Paul’s jury heard opening statements from San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christoper Peuvrelle and Attorney Robert Sanger, Paul’s defense attorney. The courtroom later switched over to Ruben’s jury, which heard opening statements from Peuvrelle and Sanger.
Court adjourned with plans to continue on Tuesday with opening statements from Ruben’s defense attorney Harold Mesick. According to reports, Mesick said he was unaware counsel was going to try Ruben’s case today and requested more time for his response.
However, due to health concerns, the court on Tuesday morning was unexpectedly scheduled to resume on Thursday.
Peurvelle started his opening statement to the jury by retelling the timeline of the case from the beginning — May 26, 1996.
The jury was shown a video of Paul at a graduation party two weeks after Smart was reported missing. The woman filming asked Paul what he did with the missing girl. Paul said “nothing” and hung his head.
Peurvelle then told of witnesses the jury will hear from throughout the trial, including three women who will testify they met Paul at Los Angeles County bars only to wake up in his bed with no memory of how they got there and actively being raped by Paul.
One of those women went directly to the hospital and was swabbed for DNA which was matched to Paul.
The prosecutor outlined his theory for what happened to Smart. He told the jury he believed Paul walked Smart back to his dorm on the Cal Poly campus and murdered her before moving the body to his father’s home with Ruben’s help.
His evidence to back up the claim included several photos of Paul’s dorm room, and four different cadaver dogs who altered to the smell of decomposing human remains in Paul’s room during a blind search of the dorm building.
Additional evidence included the search of Ruben’s home in February of 2020, when investigators found items pertaining to the Smart investigation in a bedroom, including missing posters and newspaper clippings.
Also in February 2020, a cargo trailer belonging to Susan Flores’s (Paul’s mother) boyfriend was parked alongside Ruben’s deck. Investigators tested the trailer with luminol to reveal an area on the floor that “lit up like a Christmas tree.”
During their investigation, the prosecution was issued a federal wiretap permit for the Flores family, where they heard Susan tell Paul, “I need you to start to listening to the [‘Your Own Backyard’] podcast … I need you to poke holes in it where you can.”
There was no response from Paul to his mother’s comment regarding the podcast. This portion of the call was played for the jury.
Ruben and Susan were sitting side by side in the courtroom during opening statements in Paul’s trial.
Next was Sanger’s turn to give his opening statement for Paul.
Sanger opened by disputing the conversation between Susan and Paul about the podcast, saying it doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing. He added that any other mother whose son was accused of murder would want her son to point out any incorrect information in a podcast, calling out the “Your Own Backyard” podcast by name.
Regarding Paul’s alleged rapes, Sanger argued they don’t say what happened to Smart and he began to paint a very different picture for the jury from what was presented by the prosecution.
Sanger went on to say Smart engaged in “at-risk” behavior, alleging she was known to get into cars with guys, tell people she was a model, and that she had a history of going off with older men.
According to Sanger, Ruben collected the memorabilia about Smart because there had been a concentrated media campaign accusing the family of their involvement with her disappearance. He added that Ruben has been assaulted at his own home for the past 25 years.
Throughout his statements, Sanger disputed evidence presented that involved cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar operators who found the anomaly under Ruben’s deck.
Sanger presented to jurors that the prosecution is relying on circumstantial evidence, and since there were no eyewitnesses and nobody found, their case has no physical or forensic evidence.
Moving into opening statements for Ruben’s jury, a very similar presentation was given by both Peurvelle and Sanger.
Paul remains in Monterey County Jail without bail, while his father Ruben was released on bail shortly after his arrest in April 2021.
There will be no live footage or audio/video recordings allowed in the courtroom, as ordered by the judge. Only still photography is allowed. The trial is expected to last through October.
This is a developing story. Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News will continue to monitor the trial and provide updates as they are available.