Only Paul Flores’ jury was present Thursday for the 14th day of the People v. Flores trial. Retired investigator for the District Attorney’s office, William “Bill” Hanley, testified about his two experiences interviewing Paul Flores in 1996— once on May 31 and another on June 19.
Requested by the major crime unit to assist with the case, Hanley joined the case on the same day he originally interviewed Flores: May 31, 1996.
Hanley and his partner, Larry Hobson, were quickly briefed around 1:30 p.m. at the Cal Poly Police station before calling Paul Flores for an interview. At the time, they were interviewing Flores as a witness.
“We believed he was the last person to see Smart alive,” Hanley said.
Due to the room being small and loud, five minutes into the interview, Hanley asked Flores to continue the interview in his car, with Hobson accompanying the two in the backseat. With Hanley at the wheel and Flores in the passenger seat, Hanley asked Flores about May 24.
In this car ride, Flores told Hanley his timeline of the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. After getting off work at 3 p.m., Flores ate dinner and drank in his dorm room, playing pool in between before walking to his sister’s house on Walnut Street. Along the way, Flores had cut through Crandall Way and happened upon the party, though it wasn’t his intention to go out partying that night.
Once arriving at the party on Crandall, Flores played pool and talked with a girl in his English class. Flores also said he met Smart that night, who introduced herself as “Roxy.” Flores told Hanley that she appeared to be intoxicated.
During the interview, Flores maintained that this was his only interaction with Smart at the party.
Contradicting witness testimony, Flores denied falling on the floor with Smart or seeing her fall at the party. During the interview with Hanley and Hobson on May 31, he also denied talking to Trevor Boelter or Matt Toomey, both of whom testified in the trial that they spoke to Flores at the party.
Around 2:30 a.m., Flores said that he walked outside because “the party ran out of beer.” Standing near the sidewalk, Flores saw a girl he knew from his statistics class, Cheryl Manzer, and Smart. Knowing that the two girls would be walking back to the dorms, Flores joined them. Flores never went to his sister’s house that night.
Hanley said that Flores did not tell him how he knew that the two girls were walking back to the dorms.
Flores told Hanley he rubbed Smart’s shoulders to warm her up once or twice, noticing she was cold. He said it was “not sexual in nature at all.”
“I don’t go out with those types of girls,” Flores told Hanley. “She was flirting with too many guys.”
Flores said that Manzer took a right on Grand Avenue while he took a left towards Perimeter to get to his dorm. Flores did not mention how Smart could not walk or his attempts to hug and kiss Manzer during the May 31 interview.
Hanley then asked Flores why he didn’t get Smart to her dorm like he told Manzer he would, especially since she was intoxicated
“I didn’t even think about it,” Flores replied.
Flores described that there was “hardly anybody on campus” when walking back to his dorm, given that it was so late and that it was Memorial Day weekend. Once he reached his room, Flores said that he talked with someone in the hall, but he and the police were unable to identify them.
The last time Flores said he saw Smart was when she was “walking toward her dorm.”
That Saturday of the 1996 Memorial Day weekend, Flores said he hung around campus, went to a Campus Dining venue before watching a movie and having dinner. It is not clear what Flores did between these activities. On Sunday, his father Ruben Flores came to the Cal Poly campus and picked Paul to go to his home in Arroyo Grande.
Hanley requests interview with Flores again due to ‘inconsistencies’ and ‘falsehoods‘
On June 19, 1996, Flores was interrogated by Hanley and Hobson, now as the focus of the investigation rather than just a witness.
In the Arroyo Grande Police Department station, Hanley and Hobson asked Flores about “falsehoods” and “inconsistencies” from his previous interview. There was a hidden video camera in the room on June 19, unbeknownst to Flores.
During this interview, Flores refused to take a polygraph, even though he agreed to one previously in May 1996.
When Hanley suggested Flores take a polygraph, he responded that his parents “told me not to talk to you guys.”
Christopher Peuvrelle, representing the prosecution, passed out interview transcripts to jurors on Thursday, with presiding Judge Jennifer O’Keefe reminding the jury that “officer statements are not evidence.” A recording of the interview was also played.
In this interview, Flores claimed he did not remember talking with Smart at all at the Crandall party. Flores said that he and Smart did not fall at the party, and denied that he forced a kiss on anyone at the party.
Manzer told Hanley and Hobson that she asked Flores to walk Smart the rest of the way home after she parted ways with them. In the interview, Flores said he doesn’t remember her asking that.
“I have no idea that even happened,” Flores said in the interview. “I guess I had a blackout at that time then.”
During the interview, Flores held that he did not kiss Smart at the party, despite Hanley and Hobson telling him that witnesses said otherwise.
“Nuh-uh,” he maintained. “Unless I had a blackout.”
He said that he only remembered having one interaction with Smart at the party, when she introduced herself. When prompted by Hanley and Hobson, he said that Smart may have said “hi” to him twice, though he had no recollection of it.
“I think you don’t wanna tell us everything because you don’t wanna look like a suspect,” Hanley said in the recording.
“Anything’s possible,” Flores said. “You can end up saying something and not remember it.”
As for his black eye, Flores claimed in his original interview that he did not know the origin of it.
“I noticed under his right eye… was faint discoloration,” Hanley said when he saw Flores in May, 1996. “[It] appeared to be the later stages of a black eye.”
However, in a different interview, Flores said his black eye was from uninstalling a radio system stereo from his car. Another time, Flores said it was from basketball.
When Hanley asked why Flores had lied about his black eye, Flores said he didn’t want to seem like “a klutz” for getting it while uninstalling the radio.
“What’s the big deal with white lites?” Flores said.
Regarding the exact timeline of his black eye, Flores said “it didn’t really matter” because, in any case, it happened days later. The bruise itself “never swelled, never was sore.” He again said he “didn’t think it would matter” to tell the investigators previously that he had gotten the bruise playing basketball instead of telling the truth.
Hanley and Hobson said the timeline was very important, suggesting that “Roxy” may have hit him in the eye. Flores was silent.
Hanley and Hobson told Flores that a witness told them that they saw Flores with a black eye on Saturday, with Flores responding, “Nope — there’s no way I had a black eye.”
During Sanger’s cross examination, Hanley confirmed that the police use accusatory information to get a suspect to admit wrong, including “misinformation,” and confirmed that he and Hobson had no evidence to prove that Flores did have a black eye on that Saturday during the June 19 interview.
The first person to see Flores with a black eye, Jeremy Moon, previously testified that he saw Flores with a black eye on Sunday night – not only on Monday as Flores said in the June 19 interview.
Sanger weighed Flores’ age at the time as defense for Flores not telling the truth about how he got his black eye.
“Kids lie sometimes about black eyes to other friends,” Sanger said.
Hanley and Hobson repeatedly asked Flores where Smart could have gone if she did not make it to her dorm. When he said he had no idea, the investigators persisted. In the recording, Flores said that his “best guess” was that Smart “went off with someone.” Flores later said during this same interview that he thought she might have gotten abducted.
Some of the things that Investigator Hobson asked were not true, Hanley agreed with Sanger. Hanely and Hobson were asking Flores to “speculate what happened,” he confirmed.
Hanley denied the “good cop bad cop strategy” Sanger suggested of the information presented to Flores and the questions asked.
During the interview, Hanley and Hobson told Flores that a witness had picked his and Smart’s photos out of a lineup and told investigators that they’d seen them together somewhere else that Flores wasn’t admitting to.
Confused, Flores asked where this person said they saw him together with Smart, which Hanley and Hobson did not answer.
During cross examination, Hanley said that no one had actually seen them together besides at the party and on the walk back, and that he and Hobson made that up to get Flores to confess, which, as Sanger pointed out, he did not do.
“Paul Flores did not confess to the crime you were trying to get him to confess to,” Sanger said during the trial.
Court announces COVID-19 outbreak in People v. Flores trial
Monterey County Superior Court Executive Officer Chris Ruhl announced Thursday that three Flores trial participants had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.
California Department of Public Health and CalOSHA define this as an “outbreak,” requiring courtroom participants to wear a mask, test for the virus on Saturday and notify the Court Clerk of any symptoms or a positive test.
Ruhl said that there is “no indication” that COVID-19 has transmitted between any people in the courtroom itself, but rather these are three independent positive cases.
Privacy laws prohibit the court from identifying who has tested positive.
The trial will reconvene Friday morning with both Paul and Ruben Flores’ juries at 8:30 a.m.