A preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores in the 1996 disappearance and death of Kristin Smart continues today yet uncertainty ensues after the defense motioned to disqualify the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office from handling the case.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last at least all month. The objective is to determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to take the case to trial. The hearing is not being broadcasted, and will only be conducted in-person in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.
Paul Flores is facing first-degree murder charges, and his father, Ruben Flores is charged with accessory to murder after the fact.
Kristin Smart went missing on May 25, 1996 after attending an off-campus Memorial Day weekend party. Paul Flores is reported to be the last person seen with Kristin.
Wednesday’s hearing session started with Paul Flores and Ruben Flores’ defense team filing a motion to disqualify the District Attorney’s office. This was on the grounds that Paul was not receiving a fair trial due to the DA’s office portraying a conflict of interest by wearing purple in the courtroom.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detective Clint Cole, Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle and District Attorney Investigator J.T. Camp had all been seen wearing purple ties in the courtroom during the hearing. Detective Cole explains that he saw a Facebook post saying purple was Smart’s favorite color.
Robert Sanger, Paul’s attorney, claims that this hinders Paul’s right to a fair and impartial trial due to the purple ties representing “a community movement to convict Paul Flores.”
The temporary motion hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25.
Cadaver dog expert testifies that searching Paul Flores’ dorm room prompted “the strongest alert” she’s ever seen
Cadaver dog handler Adela Morris, whose dog was part of a team asked to search Paul’s dorm room in 1996, was cross examined on Wednesday. Questioning started with Sanger focusing on Morris’ credibility as a dog handler as well as her and her dog’s certification process.
Both passed the necessary tests the California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) required in 1995. Morris’ dog at the time, Cholla, was certified as a cadaver, cadaver in water and wilderness area search dog.
Morris and Cholla were one of the cadaver dog and handler teams asked to search Paul’s dorm room in Santa Lucia at Cal Poly. She described the process as her entering and stopping at the door, while commanding the dog to start their search. Morris recalled that Cholla went down the hallway and alerted at room 128 – Paul’s room.
Morris describes the search as “probably the strongest alert I have ever seen her do.”
She said that once Cholla entered the room, she was directed to search the whole room but was only alerted to the left side. The alerts were mainly focused on the end of the bed and on the desk in the dorm.
Cholla also flagged interest in a piece of plastic in a dumpster around Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center and Paul’s mother, Susan Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande.
The defense team inquired about the cleaning of the dorm room beforehand “contaminating” the room and hindering the dog’ ability to detect the scent of human decomposition. Morris denied knowing the room was cleaned beforehand.
“You only need a drop of blood for the dogs to pick up a scent,” Morris said.
A subject focused on was the false positive rate of cadaver dogs, which Morris says was not tracked at the time. Sanger challenged Morris’ 35 years of experience by saying she did not have the proper qualifications to be an expert witness. Judge Craig Van Rooyan ruled her foundation on the search in the dorms as adequate.
What’s to come
The final witness of the day, called with less than 30 minutes left, was Tim Davis. Davis was one of the partygoers who walked with Cheryl Anderson, Paul and Smart the night of the disappearance. He was asked to look at recent photos of 135 Crandall Way, the location of the party and identify the similarities and differences it had 25 years ago to now.
Tim Davis’ questioning continues today.