There has been some dramatic testimony in the ongoing trial of Paul and Ruben Flores, who stand accused in the 1996 murder of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, including from two women who say they were assaulted by Paul Flores in the last 15 years.
The trial in the 26-year-old case began in mid-July, after a year of legal machinations that came after investigators finally arrested and charged 45-year-old Paul Flores with Smart's murder, and charged his 80-year-old father with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly helping keep Smart's remains hidden all these years. Paul Flores, who was a student at Cal Poly at the same time as Smart, was said by witnesses to have been stalking Smart during the school year, and was the last person with Smart when she disappeared over Memorial Day Weekend, 1996.
The pair are on trial despite the fact that Smart's body has never been found, but there's substantial evidence to suggest she had been buried under a deck in back of the elder Flores's Arroyo Grande home until prosecutors came asking questions again in 2021.
Recent days of testimony from prosecution witnesses included testimony from a one-time acquaintance of Paul Flores, Jennifer Hudson. Hudson only came forward in 2019 to say that she had heard Flores bragging about killing Smart and burying her under his skate ramp back in the summer of 1996, months after Smart disappeared. The public first heard about Hudson's account during a pre-trial hearing last year.
According to Hudson, she and some other skater friends were hanging out with Flores watching TV when an ad came on about Smart being missing. Flores allegedly said in response to the ad, "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 allegedly said something to the effect of, "I'm done playing with her and I put her out underneath my ramp in Huasna," referring to the southern San Luis Obispo County town where Flores's family had a home at the time.
Hudson said she was later taken by a friend to a skate ramp, only to discover when she got there that it belong to Flores and that it was the same ramp he had referred to regarding Smart's remains. She said she promptly vomited when she realized.
On cross-examination, as Mustang News reports, Hudson admitted she had been using meth in the months before she met Flores. But she said she was not on drugs the day she heard Flores make that statement about Smart, and she said she never used meth again after that day, referring to it as a "reality check."
Other testimony that had not been reported on in connection with the preliminary hearing came from two women, referred to in court as Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe, who said they had been sexually assaulted by Paul Flores over a decade ago. As SFGate reports, both women claimed to have met Flores while drinking in Southern California, Rhonda Doe in 2008 and Sarah Doe in 2011. Rhonda Doe said she met Flores in Redondo Beach, Sarah Doe said her encounter was in San Pedro. Both women said they felt uncharacteristically intoxicated after relatively minimal alcohol consumption, and they said they passed out only to awake to Flores raping them.
The suggestion that they may have been drugged prior to the assault fits with witnesses who have said over the years that Kristin Smart seemed extremely intoxicated after her frat-party encounter with Flores in 1996, and she was nearly passed out on the lawn before Flores and two other people began helping her back to her dorm. Flores would ultimately be left alone with Smart, and was the last person to see her alive.
Per SFGate, jurors have been seen crying during some of this testimony. And at one point, Judge Jennifer O’Keefe called for a recess so that jurors could collect themselves.
Other testimony has come from experts who examined the scene behind Ruben Flores's home after investigators got a search warrant for the premises in March 2021. Investigators found an area of disturbed soil behind the home, and testing of different sections of the soil yielded positive results for the presence of human blood.
An archaeologist, Cindy Arrington, was brought in to examine the soil, and as SFGate reports Arrington testified that she observed "stains" in the soil that, in her opinion, were from "fluid [that] had leaked, likely from decomposition."
The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported today from the courtroom that jurors are now hearing details about DNA testing that was done on various items, including a canvas mattress cover that was found in Paul Flores's dorm room — where the prosecution theory has the murder taking place — and a piece of plywood from a cargo van that belongs to the boyfriend of Flores's mother, presumably a vehicle the prosecution thinks may have been involved in relocating the remains last year.
The most compelling results come from the mattress cover, but none of the results are conclusive. A small brown stain which tested presumptively positive for human blood was found on the mattress cover, and forensic DNA analyst Angela Butler testified that neither Smart nor Flores could be excluded as being possible sources of the stain — and it contained a "DNA mixture" that included at least one male.
Butler is expected to continue her testimony on Tuesday.
The trial is taking place in Salinas, in Monterey County Superior Court, after a San Luis Obispo County judge ruled last year in favor of a defense motion for a change of venue. The small community of San Luis Obispo, the judge ruled, had heard too much about the case over the last two and a half decades to have likely many members who could remain objective.
Related: Trial Kicks Off In 26-Year-Old Kristin Smart Murder Case
Top image: A vintage photo of a missing poster from 1996 showing Kristin Smart. Photo by Axel Koester/Sygma via Getty Images