Former California college students who knew longtime missing woman Kristin Smart or Paul Flores – the man accused of killing smart, and then hiding her body with his dad’s help – testified in court about their run-ins with the woman or her alleged killer in the days around her disappearance.
Paul Flores is accused of killing Smart on May 25, 1996, while both were freshman at California Polytechnic State University’s San Luis Obispo campus. His father then allegedly helped him hide her body.
The trial proceedings are not televised or live-streamed, pursuant to a judge’s ruling. A handful of journalists – including the person behind the “Your Own Backyard” (YOB) Podcast that is credited with renewing interest in the case – have been reporting from inside the courtroom amid the media limitations.
There will be no trial proceedings on Friday. On Thursday, the juries heard more testimony from people who knew or encountered Smart and Paul Flores in the days around her disappearance.
A Cal Poly student identified as “Mario,” who said he was a junior transfer student to the San Luis Obispo campus for the 1995-1996 school year, and used to play 8-ball pool with the younger Flores multiple times a week in the college’s Santa Lucia Hall, according to tweets from the YOB Podcast.
He and Flores played pool in the days after Memorial Day weekend 1996 – the last time Smart was seen, he recalled. Mario reportedly described how Flores appeared to have a black eye and wore a had that he pulled down “in a very unusual way, like he was trying to hide it.”
When Mario asked Flores about the eye injury, Flores alleged responded that he had gone to a party where someone pushed him, according to the report.
Mario reportedly described Flores at the time as being “kind of nervous, edgy.” But when asked on cross-examination, Mario also conceded that Flores was “generally a friendly guy.”
Paul Flores’ defense attorney, Robert Sanger, asked Mario questions about what he remembered about the black eye, such as where on his face and when the interaction with Flores happened.
Mario said it was “under the eye,” not “in the eyelid” where Sanger suggested.
Sanger asked: “You can’t really remember when it occurred?” according to YOB Podcast tweets.
Mario reportedly responded that “it was Wednesday or Thursday of that week.”
Ruben Flores’ defense attorney, Harold Mesick, also questioned Mario about specific details, such as whether Flores “always wore a hat” when he played pool, according to the report.
“Not that I recall,” Mario said.
Mesick asked: “You don’t recall he always wore hats? He was notorious for wearing hats?”
Mario said he did not recall that.
Next to the stand was a Cal Poly student named Felipe, who spoke about how Smart was a close friend who had stayed in his room once or twice. He reportedly said he last saw Smart on May 23, when she left a reggae CD, lip gloss and sandals in his room, according to the report.
The juries also briefly heard from a District Attorney’s Office investigator who testified about how Ruben Flores’ address remained the same from 1994 through 2022, according to the podcast reporter.
Paul Flores’ home address was listed on his license as being the same as Ruben Flores’ from 1993 through 2005, when his residence location changed to in Lawndale, and then San Pedro, according to the report.
The younger Flores is charged with murder in connection with Smart’s presumed death. His father, Ruben Flores, is charged with helping his son bury Smart’s remains. He allegedly later unearthed and relocated the remains.
Paul was allegedly the last person seen with Smart, 19, who was said to have been intoxicated after they and others had attended an off-campus frat party over the Memorial Day weekend.
The state has said Paul Flores killed Smart in his dorm room while he tried to rape her when they were both freshmen. A massive search ensued.
Separate juries were selected from a pool of more than 1,500 Monterey County residents to oversee each case separately, but simultaneously. The trial is expected to last four months.