A preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores in the 1996 disappearance and death of Kristin Smart began yesterday — providing insight into the Cal Poly freshman’s life before she went missing 25 years ago.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last about 12 days and will determine whether there is 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.
The hearing began with a cross examination of Denise Smart, Kristin’s mother.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle, for the prosecution, first asked Denise questions surrounding Kristin’s relationship with her family, her life at school and her habits — appearing to imply that purposely leaving school and ending communication with her family was not likely for Kristin.
Peuvrelle asked Denise about significant events in the family since Kristin’s disappearance. Denise said Kristin’s siblings, Matthew and Lindsey, have graduated from high school and college, gotten married and have had children — all of which Kristin would never have missed.
While Kristin was at Cal Poly, Denise said they talked on the phone every Sunday, sometimes more throughout the week.
Denise talked to Kristin the week before she went missing. During the call, Kristin was upset because a professor couldn’t find her Scantron test, therefore giving her an ‘incomplete.’
During a phone call the following week — the day before the disappearance — Denise said Kristin was “upbeat.”
“I have good news, I’ll call you on Sunday,” Kristin said, according to Denise. Kristin never called.
“We later found out the teacher had found her test,” Denise recalled, starting to cry.
Peuvrelle asked Denise if they ever stopped looking for Kristin after she went missing.
“No — never,” Denise said.
Kristin’s father, Stan Smart, drove to Cal Poly assuming she’d be there and searched all summer. Denise contacted the University President’s Office, the resident assistant for Kristin’s building and the Cal Poly Police Department — all of whom didn’t have any information.
Denise then contacted the sexual assault division of the Los Angeles FBI. The sexual assault division contacted Cal Poly and determined their help was “not needed” based on what Cal Poly Police told them.
Denise also spoke with Kristin’s roommate, Crystal Calvin, after the disappearance. Denise said Calvin was “concerned” as well.
Later in the hearing, two witnesses were brought forward — people who attended the party where Paul Flores and Kristin Smart were seen before she went missing.
The first witness, Eric Grasso, said he saw Paul Flores at the party stepping into a conversation with Grasso’s friends. The other witness, Kendra Koed, was non-consensually kissed by Paul after asking him for a piece of gum. Koed said she later saw Kristin fall on the floor with Paul hovering over her. Then, Koed talked to Kristin outside the party.
When she left the party, Koed saw Kristin on the driveway of a nearby house and offered to walk her home. Kristin turned her down because she was waiting for someone.
District Attorney Dan Dow has previously said the prosecution believes Paul’s Santa Lucia dorm room was the crime scene, where Paul either attempted to or committed rape before killing Kristin. However, Judge Craig van Rooyen denied the addition of rape charges prior to the preliminary hearing.
Denise said Kristin wasn’t happy at Cal Poly, but they planned for her to stay through her first year.
The Smart family last saw Kristin when they visited her at Cal Poly during her spring break. Denise said they left on good terms.
Around that time, Denise said Kristin was still questioning college but was in a “better place.”
Defense attorneys Robert Sanger and Harold Mesick, representing Paul and Ruben Flores respectively, also questioned Denise. Denise was asked if she was aware Kristin had applied to modeling agencies outside of California and the US, had boyfriends during college, used nicknames for herself such as “Roxy” and went missing in Hawaii while working as a camp lifeguard. Denise was not aware of any of these instances.
Kristin was a lifeguard in Hawaii for six weeks and they communicated about a couple times a week, Denise said. Denise said Kristin also maintained consistent communication other times she traveled. When abroad, communication was less frequent as they relied primarily on letters.
Kristin would not have been able to access any money after her disappearance, and she did not have a drivers license nor a car, Denise said.
Denise is subject to be called to the stand again for further questioning.
Dow has previously said that forensic evidence, physical evidence, electronic communication and witness statements all provide enough grounds to prosecute Paul and Ruben Flores.
Ava Kershner contributed reporting to this story.