Bodyless Kristin Smart’s murder case hinges on graphics, rape claims, forensics

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Without a body to show in the 1996 San Luis Obispo cold case, the prosecutor concluded his presentation in the Kristin Smart murder case with a sexually explicit screenshot of another woman with a red ball gag in her mouth on Paul Flores’ bed. San Pedro house.

Experts testified that the image came from Flores’ computer, which has long been associated with Smart’s disappearance.

Judge Jennifer O’Keefe on Tuesday ordered the Monterey County jurors to consider it only corroborative evidence for a single detail of the testimonies of two women who told the panel that they had been raped by Flores and that he had a red ball gag. possessed.

Jurors had already heard those women testify that the man last seen with Smart on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus on May 25, 1996, before she disappeared, sexually assaulted them separately in Los Angeles in 2008 and 2011. The judge called the video shocking and said she chose the least incendiary still image. Flores’ attorney Robert Sanger called it unnecessarily harmful outside of the panel’s presence.

San Luis Obispo County Dist. Atty. Chris Peuvrelle has spent more than two months trying to show the judges that Paul Flores raped and murdered 19-year-old Smart before, with the help of his father, Ruben Flores, to hide Smart’s remains. The elder Flores is simultaneously tried for complicity, accused of helping dispose of the Cal Poly student’s body. Separate jurors who hear the case together decide the fate of each man.

The judge rejected a request from Paul and Ruben Flores to dismiss the case. Sanger, Flores’ attorney, told the judge there was “no evidence of a murder case, no evidence of rape, and no evidence in this case.”

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Ruben Flores went even further. Harold Mesick told the judge, “We don’t even know if Kristin Smart is dead.”

Those lawyers began Wednesday to debunk the theory of the prosecution, knowing that without a body and TBEN connecting Flores and Smart, despite the days of testimonies, they must only convince jurors that there is reasonable doubt about the crimes.

To undermine the theory that Smart was buried under Ruben Flores’ decks for decades before being relocated, Paul Flores’ attorney called to witness David Carter, a professor of forensic science at Chaminade University in Honolulu, who has studied decomposition for 20 years. . Carter said he saw nothing in the data to suggest the presence of human remains and that decomposing bodies are messy and leave traces even when removed from the ground.

Smart’s disappearance and the murder investigation have haunted the Central Coast college community for decades, with billboards calling for evidence to convict her killer. Her body was never found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested Paul Flores, 44, at his home in San Pedro in April 2021. His father, Ruben, was taken into custody at his home in Arroyo Grande, California, last year. He is accused of being complicit in the crime after prosecutors say he moved Smart’s body.

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Smart was last seen walking near residential homes with Paul Flores after attending a party. Both were Cal Poly students at the time.

A judge in San Luis Obispo County ordered the trial to be moved 126 miles north to Monterey County to ensure a fair trial.

During the trial, which began on July 18, a prosecutor asked for testimony from witness Jennifer Hudson that Paul Flores admitted the crime to her in 1996.

“I’m done playing with her and I’ve put her down,” Hudson testified, indicating that his words from Flores seemed to refer to a local skateboarding ramp. But she told none of those words for years and informed the lead investigator in the case in 2019. She also admitted on the witness stand to have used methamphetamine during that period, but not on the day she heard Flores’ alleged statement.

In other key testimonials, neighbors, a former girlfriend of Paul Flores, and a tenant of Ruben Flores’ home all testified about an area below the deck of Flores’ older Arroyo Grande home. The prosecutor elicited testimonies to try to show that Smart’s body was hidden there for years and was eventually moved. A search in March 2021 for Arroyo Grande’s home led researchers to find an area of ​​disturbed soil.

An archaeologist, Cindy Arrington, testified that she and a colleague found spots in the soil consistent with human decomposition and a disturbance that the soil had been removed and replaced.

Jurors also learned of the two women who have accused Paul Flores of sexual assault in LA. Rhonda Doe, a court-assigned alias, testified that she met him at the Thirsty bar in Redondo Beach and walked to his house in 2008, drank a glass of wine, water, and darkened.

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She said she woke up to find that he was having sex with her without her consent and that she remembered being knocked in and out of consciousness repeatedly and that she remembered a balm in her mouth. She testified that she cried when she regained consciousness and demanded that he drive her home, which he did. The woman testified that she came forward after seeing his image on the news and recognizing him.

A second woman, known in court as Sarah Doe, testified that Paul Flores raped her in 2011 after meeting him at a bar in San Pedro where she had drunk four or five alcoholic drinks. Once at his house, he offered her a non-alcoholic drink, and she said she remembered going in and out of consciousness when he raped her on his bed and in the shower and tried to stuff a red ball into her mouth. .

She testified that a few years later she tried to report the incident to the police, but did not complete the report after being questioned. But she testified that she did tell two friends.

The true-crime podcast “Your Own Backyard” has been credited by authorities with reviving interest in the Smart case and helping identify potential new witnesses and investigative channels.

The The Bharat Express News contributed to this report.