Deputy District Attorney Chris Peurvelle presents closing arguments in the Kristin Smart murder trial on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Peurvelle presents closing arguments in the Kristin Smart murder trial on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Credit: Laura Dickinson / The San Luis Obispo Tribune

Editor’s note: The People v. Flores murder trial is covered each day by Mustang News. Follow @CPMustangNews on Twitter and Instagram for more updates. Read previous articles about the trial here.

Closing statements for the Kristin Smart murder trial began on Monday, following the conclusion of the presentation of evidence last week. 

Prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle gave his statement to Paul Flores’ jury on behalf of The People. Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, gave the first part of his statement on behalf of his client.

Before closing statements began, Judge Jennifer O’Keefe delivered jury instructions to Paul Flores’ jury.

“You will decide what the facts are,” she said, telling them that they must reach a verdict “based only on the evidence that has been presented to you in this trial.”

O’Keefe also reminded the jury multiple times that they must find the defendant guilty only if the prosecution has proved his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Paul Flores is charged with felony murder in the commission of a rape, although O’Keefe noted that he had been prosecuted for murder under different theories.

Jurors must decide if he is guilty of the charges filed against him or if he is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They may conclude that he committed premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder in the commission of an attempted rape, second-degree murder, or that he did not commit a crime at all.

“You need not all agree on the same theory, but you must unanimously agree on the degree of murder,” Judge O’Keefe said. 

Sanger will continue his closing statement on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., and Peuvrelle will have an option for rebuttal after that.

Ruben Flores was present during closing statements as a member of the public, but his jury was not present in the courtroom. Closing statements for Ruben Flores will take place after they conclude for the Paul Flores case.

Christopher Peuvrelle, on behalf of the People

“You’ve been a patient and attentive jury,” Peuvrelle began. “I know everyone here appreciates that.”

During his opening statement in July, he told the jury that 1,359 Sundays had passed since May 26, 1996, noting that Smart used to call her family every Sunday before she disappeared. 

On Monday, he said that it had now been 1,370 Sundays since Smart disappeared — with 11 Sundays passing since the beginning of the trial.

“But now you know where she was all along,” he said. “She was under [Paul and Ruben Flores’] deck.”

Peuvrelle told the jury that Paul and Ruben “treated [Smart’s] burial with less reverence than a family pet” when he says they buried her 26 years ago, and added that “justice delayed does not have to be justice denied.”

“You have everything you need in evidence to deliver a truthful verdict in this case: that Paul Flores is guilty,” he said. 

Peuvrelle noted that Paul and Ruben Flores did not help find Smart during the peak of the investigation. 

“These defendants did not lift one finger, because they knew right where she was,” Peuvrelle said. “They did not want to help find her.”

Peuvrelle’s closing statement primarily consisted of giving the jury an overview of all of the evidence that the prosecution has presented throughout the trial. He began by talking about her relationship with her family, specifically noting the closeness of her relationship with her siblings.

“She had everything to live for,” he said. “While she planned for her future, Paul Flores hunted her around campus.”

Peverelle recounted testimony from Margarita Campos and Steve Flemming, both friends of Smart who Peuvrelle quoted saying that Smart was “too nice to tell [Paul Flores] off.”

“And what we see as being a nice human being, Paul Flores saw as being a ‘bitch dick tease,’” Peuvrelle said. 

In saying this, Peuvrelle was referencing testimony from Jennifer Hudson, who said she heard Paul Flores refer to Smart as a “‘dick tease’” when she heard him admit to killing and burying Smart in the summer of 1996.

“In his predatory, vile, rapist mind, that’s what he saw her as,” Peuvrelle said.

He also mentioned a phone call between Paul Flores and his mother, Susan Flores, where she said that they needed to “‘poke holes’” in Chris Lambert’s “Your Own Backyard” podcast in 2019. 

The jury heard a snippet of this earlier in the trial. On Monday, Peuvrelle specifically noted how Paul Flores didn’t mention to his mother that he wasn’t guilty of the crime.

“Now if someone’s mother tells him that… their response would be: ‘There are no holes to poke in because I did not kill Kristin Smart,’’’ Peuvrelle said. “But he didn’t say that, did he?”

Peuvrelle’s closing statement was accompanied by a visual presentation. One of the slides was labeled “Crandall Party Timeline,” which briefly recounted the events of the party at 135 Crandall Way on the night that Smart disappeared.  

He spoke about various witness testimony that placed Smart and Paul Flores together at some point during the party, and noted that “she was in no position to give consent, as anybody who saw her could see.”

Peuvrelle said Smart was “vulnerable” at the party because of her level of intoxication, again making reference to Paul Flores’ “hunt” when he said that the defendant “was targeting her” and that he “knew she was intoxicated.”

Peuvrelle also said that Paul Flores was largely unaccounted for the weekend of Smart’s disappearance, and showed the jury phone records showing that he called his father, Ruben Flores, and his sister, Linda Flores, shortly after Detective Lawrence Kennedy interviewed him in his dorm for the first time.

“That tells you he’s guilty as sin,” Peuvrelle said. “His actions speak louder than words.”

He also made reference to a bruise under Paul Flores’ eye, which the defendant gave various different explanations for in 1996. Namely, Peuvrelle told the jury that Paul Flores told his friend, Jeromy Moon, that he “just woke up with it.”

“There is no reason to lie to your best friend about how you got the bruise unless you got it during the murder of Kristin Smart and the burrying of her body,” Peuvrelle said.

Peuvrelle also noted that Paul Flores told law enforcement that he saw someone in the bathroom at Santa Lucia Hall when he came back from the party — his only potential alibi that could place him anywhere after he separated from Anderson with Smart. In 1996, Paul Flores told law enforcement that he would get them the name of the person he saw in the bathroom that night.

“But that never happened,” Peuvrelle said. “Because the truth is there’s no alibi.”

Peuvrelle’s closing statement also included descriptions of the “burial site” that law enforcement excavated under Ruben Flores’ deck at his home in Arroyo Grande, which Peuvrelle described as “the perfect hiding place.”

He reminded the jury about testimony from Human Remains Detection dog handlers who said that their dogs “alerted” to the area, indicating that they were “in odor” of human remains.

He also noted the “anomaly” that archeologists found under the ground “fit the exact dimensions for [Smart’s] body and for the fact that it was a grave,” and later added that samples taken from under the deck tested positive for human blood.

One of Peuvrelle’s last points was revisiting testimonies from two women, assigned the names Rhonda and Sarah Doe by the court, who testified that Paul Flores raped them in 2008 and 2011, respectively. 

“You can conclude that Paul Flores was disposed or inclined to commit sexual offenses, and based on that decision, also conclude that Paul Flores was likely to commit and did commit rape or attemted rape,” he told the jury.

He asked the jury to consider that “these women tell you what Kristin cannot: that Paul Flores raped them.” At the end of his statement, he asked the jury for one more thing.

“I ask you to render a truthful verdict that Paul Flores is guilty of Kristin Smart’s murder,” Peuvrelle said.

Robert Sanger, on behalf of Paul Flores

“You have a pretty straightforward job,” Sanger told the jury at the beginning of his statement. “You have to decide whether or not a murder was committed beyond reasonable doubt. The short answer is: it was not.”

Sanger addressed Peuvrelle’s closing statement directly, telling the jurors that the prosecution did not effectively prove their case against his client beyond a reasonable doubt.

“What [Peuvrelle] said was basically a bunch of conspiracy theories that aren’t really supported by facts,” Sanger said. “His opinion is not evidence, what he said to you in court here is not evidence.”

Sanger made reference to the “insidious” fact that people “inserted themselves into this case,” specifically naming Dennis Mahon and Chris Lambert as people who had “theories [about the case] that turned out not to be true.”

“If you think I’m being unfair, that’s fine,” he told the jury. “Mr. Peuvrelle, really, is trying to bootstrap a murder where there is no evidence of a murder.” 

He also said there is no evidence of the rape or attemped rape of Kristin Smart by Paul Flores in 1996, and told the jury that “they cant consider that at all” when deliberating whether or not he is guilty of the charges filed against him.

“They can’t convince you that somebody is guilty of a rape just because he is a bad person,” Sanger said.

Sanger specifically rebutted Peuvrelle’s mentioning of the phone call between Paul Flores and his mother, saying that the prosecutor was “grasping at straws” to consider Paul Flores’ lack of response as an adoptive admission of guilt.

“The evidence you have is, really, absent — there is no evidence of a murder,” Sanger said. “So that’s really the end of it.”

Sanger referred to Smart’s disappearance as a “sad case,” but noted that “she obviously had some problems” and asked the jury to consider her “at-risk behavior” during deliberations.

“It’d be nice to preserve that idea that everything was fine and she was angelic and didn’t have a problem, but the reality is that she was engaged in at-risk behavior,” Sanger said.

Sanger spent a portion of his closing statement recounting Hudson’s testimony, which he has brought up to multiple witnesses.

“The story is preposterous,” he said, calling her entire testimony into question and adding that she “changed her story” multiple times.

He said Hudson was the prosecution’s “star witness” and said her “story” was only a lead that the police department “could not” corroborate, referring to her testimony as “lies.”

Sanger also referred to testimony from Cindy Arrington, the archaeologist who testified that she found stains “consistent with human decomposition” under Ruben Flores’ deck.

“She’s only done the forensic thing two other times besides this one,” Sanger said. “She couldn’t answer a question directly.”

He also referred to the publicity surrounding the case as the “elephant in the room,” and mentioned that Paul Flores and his father have been the targets of negative media attention as a result of it.

“It’s just made their life completely miserable for 25 years,” he said.

Sanger also talked about the Human Remains Detection dogs, who he said alerted to several other areas besides Ruben Flores’ deck.

He said nothing was ever found as a result of those alerts, and referred to them as “inferences.”  

Sanger also reminded the jury that “the defendant has a constitutional right not to testify,” adding that they could not consider this as evidence for the case for any reason.

The court ran out of time before Sanger could finish his closing statement.

“I really apologize, I was hoping to get it done this afternoon,” Sanger said.

Judge O’Keefe asked the jury to return on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.