Dog handler Gail LaRoque took the stand during Thursday’s trial. LaRoque recalled her training and certification with the dogs in addition to searching Paul Flores’ dorm room in 1996.
LaRoque started as a dog handler in 1992 and specialized in search and rescue before working on Kristin Smart’s disappearance. The court reached an agreement during LaRoque’s testimony that she’s an expert.
She further explained that all of the certified dogs must reach strict requirements and pass a test. The test, asks the dog to search three different sites all in 20 minutes. The dog must alert correctly at all three sites in order to pass — one incorrect alert is considered a fail. Additionally, the dogs must be able to search in any condition: hot, cold, night or day.
LaRoque said Torrey restests and is recertified every year.
According to LaRoque, she and the dogs were dealing with human remains on a regular basis, four to five days a week.
Torrey, a full boxer dog, conducted a search with LaRoque and had a history of about 200 cases of finding human remains.
LaRoque attested to Torrey’s capabilities. In a Nevada dynamite factory explosion, Torrey collected evidence on five different individuals, even with scattered pieces from the explosion. On another occasion, Torrey found the body parts of a pilot from a small private plane crash in Gilroy.
When asked about Torrey’s reliability to accurately identify human remains, LaRoque affirmed that Torrey had “trained for thousands and thousands of hours.”
In the event that Torrey would locate human remains, or “search for bones” for her, LaRoque said that she would indicate with a bringsel to her mouth or “paw” the speculated scent.
Searching Paul Flores’ dorm room
On June 29, 1996, LaRoque conducted a search with Torrey at the Santa Lucia hall. Arriving on a hot summer day around 1:30 p.m., Torrey cooled off in the Santa Lucia dorm showers before searching the building. That day, LaRoque was instructed to search just one floor.
Remaining at the entrance, LaRoque gave Torrey the command. Sprinting down the hall, then abruptly spinning around, Torrey began to growl.
Then, she searched the room and grabbed her bringsel, identifying the smell from a bed. According to LaRoque, Torrey gave a “very specific high pitched whine.” No physical human remains were found.
“It was all over that corner,” LaRoque said about the smell Torrey had reacted to. “She ran her nose up and down, up and down.”
During defense attorney Robert Sanger’s line of questioning, he asked about a potential false positive. However, LaRoque said she never had the experience. She added that she had known very little about the case at the time.
“I don’t assume things on a search — I do what I’m asked to do,” LaRoque said.
Once identified, LaRoque said that she does not remember any samples being taken from the mattress.
Paul Flores’ ex-girlfriend takes the stand
Angie Carrizel, who dated Paul Flores for about two years, was sworn in as a new witness Thursday. During their relationship, Carrizel met Flores’ parents and visited their homes.
Carrizel recalled a particular moment of touring Ruben Flores’ house and seeing his avocado trees.
“Oh, these are avocado trees, my favorite,” Carrizel said at the time.
Carrizel was then quickly redirected to the house. She was not sure if it was Paul or Ruben Flores at the time, but observed that both Flores’ body language and mood changed after she approached the tree.
In court Thursday, Carrizel reaffirmed that their overall demeanor changed.
It is suspected by the prosecution that the Flores’ buried Kristin Smart in their backyard, near the avocado tree.
Carrizel’s testimony continued Friday morning.