A Californian man is accused of spending months “hunting” a classmate before she went unaccounted for from college 26 years ago.
The now-45-year-old Paul Flores is charged with murdering Kristin Smart, a student, during an attempted rape and concealing her corpse with the aid of his father.
At California Polytechnic, Smart and Paul Flores were both enrolled when Smart vanished in May 1996 during an off-campus party.
After several setbacks and two months of testimony, the long-awaited trial that started in July was getting closer to a decision on Monday.
In Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas, California, jurors heard final arguments in the case against Paul Flores. On Tuesday, a different jury will hear closing arguments for Paul Flores’s father, Ruben Flores.
The deceased student’s body was reportedly transferred and dug up from behind Flores’ father’s house in the adjacent village of Arroyo Grande. Flores’ father, who is now 81, allegedly assisted in the burial.
He faces an accessory charge.
Each man has entered a not-guilty plea.
Flores didn’t provide a self-defense testimony.
Judge Jennifer O’Keefe of Monterey County instructed the jury on Monday to disregard that.
Don’t think for a second that the defendant didn’t testify, she admonished.
“Do not bring it up in your consideration.”
With his parents Ruben and Susan sitting behind him in the courtroom gallery, Flores, who was dressed in a mask, suit, and tie, sat silently next to his defense lawyer.
As the judge outlined the allegations against Flores, which included murder with malice aforethought, rape, and forced sodomy, Smart’s friends and family, who were also present in the courtroom gallery in an other courtroom, visibly retreated.
Police think she was buried for years under the deck of the Flores family home, but her corpse has never been located. In 2002, she was ruled deceased.
The deputy district attorney, Christopher Peuvrelle, told the jury on Monday that Paul Flores had been “hunting” Smart for months before to her death and that he was “guilty as sin.”
He said that neither Paul Flores nor his father participated in the local search for the missing adolescent.
Peuvrelle remarked, “Now you know where she was all along.”
She was under their deck, I saw.
The neighborhood searched Heaven and Earth for her. To conceal her, Paul and Ruben shifted the soil beneath their deck.
According to KRON4, Peuvrelle instructed the jury to disregard the 26-year delay in gathering evidence and filing charges.
Justice need not be denied simply because it is delayed. Now that we know the truth, He said, “The truth is out.
The reality is that Kristin was eliminated from existence by Paul Flores.
There are no witnesses to crimes committed in bedrooms. However, a forensic archaeologist, a lab manager, and ground-penetrating radar tell us what Kristin was unable to. In this instance, we don’t have a fully entire body, but we do have her blood. a few sand grains covered with blood.
The Smart family’s only remaining memory of their daughter is that. Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe, two rape victims, tell us what Kristin was unable to. a rape occurred with her. In her stead, they talk. You are well equipped to find someone guilty.
On Monday at noon, Peuvrelle is anticipated to wrap up his concluding remarks. Robert Sanger, Paul Flores’ attorney, will next speak.
Although Paul Flores had been a suspect in the murder for some time, the prosecution didn’t arrest him and his father until the case was reopened in 2021.
Last month, archaeologist Cindy Arrington testified before jurors that while no corpse was discovered when the foundation of defendant Paul Flores’ house was excavated, human decomposition marks indicate a person was in fact buried there at one time.
She added that the corpse had probably been “encapsulated” in a “tarp” or “coffin or bag”—a horrific detail that brought one jury to tears.
When the police began closing in on them last year, investigators believe Flores and his father Ruben relocated the body. This was likely spurred on by the resurgence of interest in the case that was sparked by the famous podcast Your Own Backyard.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson of San Luis Obispo, California, has admitted that detectives have made mistakes over the years and attributes the discovery of fresh evidence and the motivation of witnesses to cooperate with investigators to the podcast.
The testimony of archaeologist Cindy Arrington was conveyed by its hosts on Friday.
“First, we closely inspect the surface to check for any indications of disruption. The earth is then progressively removed, she continued.
“A stain is one of the first things that will show up [in a burial]. Around the remnants, liquids spread out and produce a stain.
Police hired Arrington’s business to dig under the Flores home in March 2021.
She defined the ‘anomaly’ as ‘a disturbance in the dirt,’ and said that they had seen it.
She said: “I started to observe some stains, incongruous with the walls of the hole’s surroundings.
Some dirt had been removed and reinserted. The flow seemed disjointed. It reveals to me that a prior hole had been excavated. The discoloration was no longer in the attractive bowl shape as it should have been. The ground had been messed up.
It was just 2 feet below ground level, she said, when she first spotted the disturbance, and it was clear someone had excavated “by hand.”
“No mechanical markings were present.” It was manually excavated, not by a machine, she stated.
She said that the absence of any human bones indicated that “the corpse was enveloped in something.” A sack, a tarp, and a coffin.
The fluid leak was probably caused by decomposition. The dirt has an uneven pattern and is darker than the soil both within and outside of it.
She said that the lines were not as thick because the fluid had seeped into the soil more gradually over time.
Over the last two years, investigators have focused on Ruben Flores’ house in Arroyo Grande, a hamlet 12 miles south of Cal Poly, after conducting hundreds of searches over the preceding two decades.
Archaeologists working for the police discovered a soil disturbance the size of a coffin and the presence of human blood in March 2021 under lattice work beneath the deck of his sizable home on a dead end street off Tally Ho Road, according to the prosecution.
To obtain a DNA sample from the blood would have been impossible. Although a blood specialist confirmed it was human blood, the test performed did not completely exclude the possibility that it had come from a ferret or a primate, even though court documents said that no traces of either species had been seen there.
James Murphy Jr., an attorney who is representing Smart’s parents in a lawsuit against the father and son, laughed aside the notion that it wasn’t human blood.
The extent of the area where the blood was discovered would indicate a dinosaur ferret, according to Murphy.
When was the last time a primate was seen while you were traveling along Tally Ho Road in Arroyo Grande?
Four days after police searched Ruben Flores’ home in February 2020, according to the complaint Murphy filed against him, the father and his accomplices allegedly transported the corpse “under cover of darkness.”
Over a year later, investigators finally started excavation under the deck.
On the first day of the trial, in July, San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle said before the court that Paul and Ruben Flores chose not to participate in the community’s frantic search for Kristin.
As Kristin’s body rotted under Ruben Flores’ deck, he tore down missing posters of her, tore down her smiling, lovely face, and labeled her a “filthy sl**.”
A taped discussion between Paul Flores and his mother Susan Flores was also played during the trial.
The mother tells her son she needs to know where they can “punch holes” in the “Your Own Backyard” podcast because “only you can,” she says on the call.
It is believed that the podcast, which debuted in 2020, had a part in generating interest in the case.
On May 25, 1996, the younger Flores, Paul, escorted Smart home from an off-campus party and was the last person to be seen with her.
When he initially talked with authorities three days later, Flores minimized his encounters with her, claiming that she had made it to her room on her own. However, other witnesses said that she had passed out earlier in the night and that Flores had supported her as they made their way back to campus.
At the time of the investigation, Flores had a black eye. According to court documents, he claimed that he acquired it while playing basketball with pals, but his friends refuted this claim. Later, he amended his account to claim that he had hit his head while repairing his automobile.
Four cadaver dogs stopped at Flores’ room and alerted to the smell of death next to his bed, according to prosecution testimony during the trial.
According to a court filing, women referred to him as “Chester the molester” and “crazy Paul” throughout the years.
Trial evidence indicated a community that had been irrevocably affected by Smart’s murder and abduction.
Denise Smart, her mother, said that Polytechnic State University employees and local police had failed to locate her daughter, causing the Smart family to spend the last 25 years looking.
In July, a weeping Denise testified during her daughter’s murder trial, saying, “I felt that the life of my daughter was of no importance to anybody but her family.”
According to CBS Sacramento, “For the following 25 years, I tried all I could and searched for solutions wherever I could.”
When Kristin didn’t phone home on Sunday, May 26, Denise said she immediately alerted the police. She said that Kristin’s upbeat call home was a weekly habit.
On that particular day, Kristin left her folks a joyful voicemail informing them of some excellent news. They were never able to identify it.
Worried Days before, Denise had phoned the college president, but was sent to a residential counselor who declined to provide any information about Kristin on the basis of “privacy.”
Denise was then informed by a sheriff from the neighborhood San Luis Obispo Police Department that he lacked authority over the university campus.
Police opened an investigation into her disappearance four days after she vanished.
Denise showed the courtroom her last letter to Kristin, dated May 5, in which she cautioned her against making hasty financial decisions.
“Get back on track,” she admonished, adding, “Buckle up, buttercup.”
I never would have imagined that would be my last letter to my daughter, Denise testified in court.
Crystal Teschendorf, Kristin Smart’s former roommate, alleged that when she reported the 19-year-old missing twice before police ultimately filed a formal report, they didn’t take her seriously.
According to Teschendorf, she and a number of other dorm occupants notified authorities two days after Smart failed to return to her room and once again two days later when she failed to show up for class, according to KSBY.
The worried students had discussed potential reasons why she may not have returned to the rooms, Teschendorf said. We saw it as being quite strange.
She stated that first, police didn’t take her worries seriously, but after the second call on the fourth day that Smart had vanished, police reported a missing person.
Paul, a fellow student who is accused of murder after allegedly raping or attempting to rape the 19-year-old, last seen Smart heading back to her room.
Teschendorf, who testified about her last encounter with Smart, said on the day they parted ways on May 24, her roommate seemed to be in a “good mood.”
Teschendorf left their room and came back to find Smart nowhere to be seen, but her keys and other possessions that she always brought everywhere were still there, undisturbed.
Teschendorf thought it was strange since, despite their lack of closeness, Smart generally let her know if she was planning to spend the night anywhere else than their dorm.
Teschendorf said that on Sunday, May 26, she and the other female residents of the hostel were worried when none of them heard from Smart and decided to make their first call to the police.
Teschendorf claimed that neither she nor Smart had been consuming alcohol while they were together before to Smart’s disappearance after being cross-examined by Paul’s defense counsel, Robert Sanger.
Two jurors will now hear distinct final arguments for the two individuals after months of testimony before choosing their fate.
On Monday, the closing arguments in the case against Paul Flores will be heard by one jury. On Tuesday, a different jury will hear the final arguments in the case against Ruben Flores.
Jurors will enter the discussion chamber immediately after closing arguments, the judge said last week.
The jury will reconvene the next day to deliberate if the testimony continues far into the evening.
Those juries who complete their deliberations first will seal their verdict and turn it in to the court clerk. The jury was instructed by the court not to discuss the case or the result with anybody.
The first jury will have 40 minutes to travel to the courtroom once the second panel has concluded its deliberations and rendered a judgment.
The verdicts will then be read one at a time.