Kristin Smart: California trial for murder suspect Paul Flores, father goes dark for remainder of week
The California trial for the men accused in connection with college student Kristin Smart’s disappearance and presumed death has been delayed for unexplained reasons, court officials said in an email.
The Monterey County courtroom in Salinas, California, went dark on Tuesday and will remain so through the rest of the week, a superior court official wrote in an email to reporters on Tuesday. The official did not provide a reason for the delay.
The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. local time on Monday, Sept. 19.
Smart was a 19-year-old college student at California Polytechnic State University in 1996 when she vanished after an off-campus party, investigators said. More than 26 years later, Paul Flores – the man who was last seen with Smart – and his father are standing trial on charges related to her presumed death.
Flores, now 45, has been charged with Smart’s murder. Ruben Flores, his 81-year-old father, was charged with acting as an accessory after the fact.
The proceedings are not being televised or live-streamed, pursuant to a judge’s ruling. A handful of journalists — including local news station KSBY-TV and the person behind the “Your Own Backyard” (YOB) Podcast, who is credited with renewing interest in the case — have been reporting from inside the courtroom amid the media limitations.
According to reports from inside the courtroom, jurors most recently heard from Angela Butler, a forensic DNA analyst who testified for under an hour on Monday.
Jurors also heard from a woman who said she heard the murder suspect call Smart a “d— tease” and said he buried her under his skate ramp.
That woman, Jennifer Hudson, said she encountered Paul Flores when she was skateboarding with him and a group of others in 1996, when she was 17, according to KSBY.
Hudson had previously told investigators that she and the group heard a public service announcement “asking if anyone had information about Kristin Smart or her disappearance,” according to past court papers.
She told investigators, “Flores responded to the PSA by saying that b—- was a d— tease and that he was done playing with her. He buried/put her underneath his ramp in Huasna,” court papers state.
She allegedly could not recall if Flores said “put her” or “buried” when uttering the sentence, court papers add.
“It did not appear to [the woman] that he was joking as he was not laughing or smiling,” documents allege. She then said that she left and “vomited” the next time she saw him.
On Monday, Sanger repeatedly asked Hudson about her consumption of alcohol and drugs, despite several objections from prosecutors, according to a series of tweets from the YOB Podcast.
Sanger also repeatedly questioned Hudson about her alleged affiliation with “biker” groups or “a motorcycle gang,” and he implied that she was not answering the question truthfully, according to a transcript of the conversation included in the tweets.
Hudson reportedly acknowledged in court that she did not initially notify police about her encounter with Flores until after the release of the YOB Podcast over 20 years later, but her friend had notified authorities anonymously before she did.
She also acknowledged that she did not call the detective working on the case until mid-November 2019, despite meeting with the podcast producers earlier in the month. She canceled on the detective once and then did not show up the next time, according to the report.
“And you told Detective Cole that you were on drugs?” Sanger reportedly asked her.
“Not on the day I met Paul,” Hudson responded, according to the tweets. “I told him I used drugs around that time period.”
Sanger then moved on, asking Hudson if she told the detective that she “thought Kristin Smart was buried in Susan Flores’ backyard and then covered with concrete.”
Hudson reportedly responded, “That was what made the most sense.”
During recross examination, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle asked Hudson to explain a previous statement in which she said she feels “responsibility for the misery of the Smart family.”
“If I was not a coward, I would have come forward,” she said as she began to cry, according to the YOB Podcast tweets.
“What else did Paul tell you?” Peuvrelle reportedly asked her.
“That he’d had enough of her, and he put her out under or by the ramp at ‘my place,’” Hudson testified.
Also on Monday, jurors heard testimony from someone identified as “Justin,” who is friends with Hudson and reported Hudson’s encounter with Paul to police after hearing about it from her.
Smart was a student at Cal Poly’s San Luis Obispo campus in 1996 when she was allegedly heavily intoxicated with Paul Flores after an off-campus party on Crandall Way. She was walked back from the party by three people — a man and woman, and Flores. The others slowly peeled off after Flores allegedly insisted multiple times that he could get Smart home safely.
She was never seen again.
The state has said Flores killed Smart in his dorm room while he tried to rape her when they were both freshmen. The disappearance prompted a massive search.
Dual juries were selected from a pool of more than 1,500 Monterey County residents to oversee each case separately but simultaneously. The trial has lasted months.