On Wednesday, a judge in San Luis Obispo County will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward with the trial of Paul and Ruben Flores, the father and son accused in the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. The case remained unsolved over the last 25 years, but prosecutors say that new evidence obtained in the last two years has bolstered their case against longtime suspect Paul Flores.
The evidence against Flores, until recently, prosecutors say, has been largely circumstantial. Multiple classmates of Flores and Smart, who were both freshman at Cal Poly at the time, as well as upperclassmen who saw them at an on-campus frat party on Memorial Day Weekend, 1996, have testified that they observed Flores acting weirdly and aggressively toward multiple women, including Smart. And one friend helped walk a very intoxicated Smart back to her dorm after the party, along with Flores — with Flores insisting on walking her back by himself.
We learned via court documents, ahead of the preliminary hearing, that several friends of Flores and Smart noted that he had a special obsession with her — and due to Flores's behavior toward women, he had already earned the nickname that year of "Chester the Molester." One dorm-mate of Smart's even told investigators that Flores had been "hunting" Smart for months, lingering oddly around their dorm to try to interact with her.
But we also learned that shortly after Smart's disappearance, multiple cadaver dogs alerted to a bed frame, a trash can, and a windowsill in Flores's first-floor dorm room — and the theory in the case is that Flores, possibly with help, pulled a car up to the dorm window in order to discretely dispose of the body shortly after her disappearance.
During the hearing, as KSBY reported, the judge heard from one witness for the prosecution who believes she heard Flores confess to killing Smart back in 1996. Jennifer Hudson said she was invited to skateboard at a friend's house in San Luis Obispo along with her boyfriend in the summer of 1996. Flores was there, and Hudson testified that when a TV commercial came on about the Smart missing persons case, Flores allegedly said, "That bitch dick tease. I was at a party with this bitch and all she did was lead me on. I finally had enough of her shit, so I took care of her." He then said something like, "I'm done playing with her and I put her out underneath my [skate] ramp in Huasna," referring to the southern San Luis Obispo County town where Flores's family lived at the time.
Hudson also told prosecutors that she and her boyfriend subsequently drove out to Huasna to see the skate ramp, and when she saw it, she vomited, as the CalCoast Times earlier reported.
Hudson says another friend convinced her not to take the confession seriously, and that Flores often told tales to make himself sound tough. Subsequently, she didn't speak about it again until 2002, when she told the story to a friend who subsequently relayed it to an FBI tip line. That led to the property in Huasna being searched in 2004 — and to Hudson later giving her testimony to the county sheriff in 2019.
In court, Hudson became emotional, as KSBY reports. "The possibility that I could have helped... I will never excuse my behavior for waiting... I apologize," Hudson said, adding that she "carries guilt every day."
Hudson was cross-examined on Monday, as KSBY reports, and when asked how she could remember a conversation from 25 years ago so clearly, Hudson said, "I would assume nobody in this courtroom would forget a conversation like that."
Another key witness for the prosecution is Tim Davis, a frat brother at the house that threw the party the night Smart disappeared. During his testimony last month, Davis relayed what he told investigators about Flores's behavior at the party, and how multiple partygoers had complained about him, specifically women. He also testified to seeing Flores and Smart, both drunk, fall to the floor together at one point.
Davis said he saw Smart lying face down on her elbows on the lawn outside the house when the party was ending. He helped her up, and he remembered her saying multiple times, "I'm cold." (Davis says it was cold that night around 2 a.m., around 50 degrees.)
Smart's friend Cheryl Anderson was there to help her, and Davis says that Paul Flores then came "out of nowhere" out of the darkness, and he remembers thinking, "Who the hell is this guy?" when everyone else from the party had disappeared and gone home.
Davis also testified, "I have a really good memory of this because it is something I've rehashed over the last 25 years." He also said, "25 years of this night and knowing Kristin Smart is gone and dead is a lot of weight on me."
Defense attorneys tried to question Davis's objectivity, noting that he once said in an interview with the district attorney, "I want to put this fucking guy away. I’m happy to do whatever I can."
Another odd new detail to emerge, via the defense, is the allegation that convicted murderer Scott Peterson and his late wife Laci, who were both attending Cal Poly at the same time as Smart, were both in attendance at this same frat party. The defense clearly wants to cast suspicion on Peterson as a possible suspect.
Prosecutors say that they found human blood and disturbed soil underneath a back deck at the Arroyo Grande home of Ruben Flores — which they searched multiple times this past spring. Smart's remains still have not been found.
The last witness in the hearing on Monday was a neighbor of Ruben Flores, Jamilyn Holman. She claims that after investigators first showed up at the Flores home on February 9, 2020, she observed "a camper trailer attached to a white van and a red SUV with a cargo trailer" both suddenly appear at the house for the first time, and stay overnight. She also testified to seeing Paul Flores's mother, Susan Flores, and her boyfriend Mike McConville at the house at the time.
In April 2021, the Smart family filed suit against Ruben and Susan Flores, and McConville, accusing them of removing Kristin Smart's remains on or around February 9, 2020.
The hearing wrapped up Monday, and the judge's ruling is expected tomorrow.
Paul Flores remains in custody without bail, and Ruben Flores, who is 80, was released on bail following his arrest in April.