Court proceedings for the People v. Flores trial resumed on Monday after an early Friday release, when Judge Jennifer O’Keefe ended proceedings early in the morning due to an undisclosed evidence issue.
First on the stand on Monday was Edward Chadwell, the contractor in charge of building Ruben Flores’ home in Arroyo Grande, 710 White Ct., in 1991.
Chadwell said that no one suffered any major injuries during the construction of the house, which he built under contract specifically for the Flores family.
During his opening statement at the beginning of the trial, prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle talked about an alleged “burial site” underneath Ruben Flores’ deck where the prosecution believes Paul and Ruben Flores buried Smart.
During a trial hearing in July, Peuvrelle said that investigators had recently found soil stains under the deck that tested positive for what could potentially be human blood.
However, because of the nature of the test, the positive result could have also indicated the presence of primate or ferret blood.
During his testimony on Monday, Chadwell said that there were no human, primate or ferret bodies on the property when he built it in 1991.
During his cross examination, Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, showed Chadwell photos of 710 White Ct. as it was being built and established that the home was constructed on a slanted hill.
Chadwell told Sanger that he was there every day while the team built the foundation of the house, and added that he was there “most of the time” afterwards.
He described the process of building the house, and said that his team had to dig as far as 8 feet down until they hit rock before they poured slurry on the ground to make an even settlement for the property.
Chadwell said that he wouldn’t have reported any minor injuries that someone may have suffered at the site.
Upon questioning from both Sanger and Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Mesick, Chadwell said that he sometimes used diesel fuel to wet the forms of houses he built, but maintained that he did not remember whether or not he used it for 710 White Ct. in particular.
Tenant of Ruben Flores recounts conversations he overheard in house
Next on the stand was David Stone, who rented a room from Ruben Flores at 710 White Ct. from October 2010 to sometime around October 2020.
Stone testified about an instance in which a plumber came to the house to fix an issue with the kitchen sink. Stone overheard Ruben Flores telling the plumber to “forget it” after learning that the plumber needed to go underneath the deck to fix the leak.
Later, during his cross-examination, Mesick asked Stone if he was aware that Paul Flores ended up fixing the leak, implying that Ruben Flores simply may not have wanted to pay for the service.
Peuvrelle objected to the point about Ruben Flores not wanting to pay for the service, but Stone did say that Paul Flores “probably did” end up fixing the sink.
Stone also said that Ruben Flores let him store some empty 55 gallon drums underneath the deck, but that he was not allowed to store anything else in there in the 10 years that he lived in the house.
Stone told Peuvrelle that he never saw anyone else go under the deck during his tenancy.
During his cross-examination with Sanger, Stone said that Ruben Flores got angry with him when he put the drums under the deck, but clarified that it was because he put them in there “without asking.”
“He didn’t want you to go down there unless he gave you permission — it’s his house,” Stone said.
Partway through Stone’s testimony, Judge O’Keefe asked Paul Flores’ jury to briefly exit the courtroom. While in the presence of only Ruben Flores’ jury, Stone described an instance in which he passed through a hallway in the house and heard someone say the word “Kristin” followed by the phrase “fucking slut.”
Stone wasn’t sure if the person who said the phrase was Ruben Flores or if it was the person that he was talking to, though he did say that Ruben Flores was a part of the conversation.
Peuvrelle then asked Stone if he remembered an interview he did with San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Detective Clint Cole, in which he said that Ruben Flores “always” referred to Smart as a “dirty slut.”
Stone maintained that he did not remember saying that to Cole, even after Peuvrelle showed him a transcript of the interview. After this, Peuvrelle asked him a question.
“Did any member of the defense team come speak to you in the last year or so?”
“No,” Stone said.
San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s detectives testify
Cole also testified in front of Ruben Flores’ jury on Monday, where he confirmed that Stone did tell him that Ruben Flores “always called” Smart a “dirty slut.”
Another Sheriff’s Detective, Matthew Terrell, also testified in court on Monday.
Terrell participated on a search warrant at 710 White Ct. on Feb. 5, 2020, in which police officers searched Ruben Flores’ home for evidence about the Smart case.
On Monday, Peuvrelle showed photos to the courtroom that Terrell took during the search, which showed an assortment of items related to the case that police found in Ruben Flores’ bedroom.
These items included a missing person’s flier, newspaper articles related to the case, a paper that read “in loving memory” of Smart and some postcards that police believed were related to the case.
During their cross-examination, Sanger and Mesick both referred to these postcards as “hate mail,” which Mesick said his client had received “thousands of pieces of.”
Mesick pointed out that all the postcards that the police found in Ruben Flores’ bedroom had the same note on the lower left corner, which read “justice will prevail.” Terrell couldn’t quite read the marking from where he was sitting in the courtroom.
Upon Mesick asking Terrell if that note indicated that the postcards likely came from the same person, Peuvrelle objected.
“I’ll let the evidence speak for itself,” Mesick said.
Neighbor of Ruben Flores says activity at the house picked up after podcast was released
Last on the stand on Monday was Jami Lynn Holman, Ruben Flores’ neighbor in Arroyo Grande.
Holman testified that she saw four vehicles outside the Flores home on the evening of Feb. 9 and the morning of Feb. 10 of 2020 that seemed “unusual” to her.
One of the vehicles was a red SUV that belonged to Susan Flores, another was a white van and the other two were trailers. Susan Flores’ boyfriend, Mike McConville, was also there.
Holman testified that she heard “a lot of yelling” in addition to the “vehicles that I hadn’t seen before” that evening, which piqued her interest.
“I had seen the cargo trailer back up into the garage,” Holman said. “I thought [it] was unusual.”
Holman took photos of the vehicles on Feb. 9, which were published into evidence and shown to the jury on Monday. She said that she couldn’t see the area where they were trying to fit the vehicles through, and therefore did not see what they were doing.
Holman assumed that Susan Flores and McConville spent the night at the house on Feb. 9, because their vehicles were still there in the morning.
During cross-examination, Sanger established that Holman didn’t report the information about the vehicles until a year later in March of 2021.
Mesick later asked Holman if she had seen the Flores’ “working all through the night” that night, which some media outlets wrongly attributed to her in the past due to a declaration she made for James Murphy’s office, the Smart Family’s attorney.
“No, I did not,” Holman said.
Holman also testified that she had seen Susan Flores at Ruben Flores’ house “most evenings” in the months leading up to Feb. 9, but that her visits had been “infrequent” before then.
Holman agreed with Peuvrelle when he suggested that Susan Flores started coming to the house regularly after Chris Lambert’s “Your Own Backyard” podcast was released.
According to Peuvrelle’s opening statement from July, the prosecution believes that it’s possible that Susan Flores and McConville assisted Ruben Flores in moving Smart’s body from his deck to another location around this time in 2020.
Court proceedings were set to continue Tuesday morning.