Content warning: This article discusses multiple forms of trauma, including rape. Survivors of such violence can access virtual confidential services through Cal Poly Safer’s website.
Ahead of a preliminary hearing starting today, popular podcast “Your Own Backyard,” released a two-part episode this month detailing the criminalizing allegations against Paul and Ruben Flores in the Kristin Smart case.
The podcast, written, produced and hosted by Chris Lambert, investigates the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart. It was first released in September 2019 and contributed to reinvigorating the case.
Paul Flores is charged with the first-degree murder of Kristin Smart. His father, Ruben Flores, is charged with accessory after the fact. The approximately 12-day-long preliminary hearing will determine if there’s enough evidence for the case to go to trial in front of a jury.
Episode nine of the podcast, “The Beginning of The End Part 1,” details the various court cases and depositions that Paul Flores attended.
At Paul Flores’ deposition in 1997, he was instructed by his attorney, Marvin Delemont, to consistently read off a piece of paper: “On the advice of my attorney, I refuse to answer that question based on the Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution.”
“…For 24 years, 10 months, two weeks and five days, silence worked for the Flores family,” Lambert said in the podcast.
The San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office offered plea deals to Paul Flores in 1997 and again five and a half years later that would have allowed him to plead guilty to either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter in exchange for leading officials to Smart’s body.
The Flores family turned the plea deals down, according to the podcast.
“Paul would ‘allegedly’ come forward about the location of the body provided an infraction [which is the least serious level of offense],” Smart family attorney James R. Murphy said, according to the podcast.
On March 15, San Luis Obispo Sheriff detectives served a search warrant of Ruben Flores’ home just a month before his arrest. Detectives used cadaver dogs to scour the premise for any human decomposition remains.
During the excavation, they found a ditch in the ground that was big enough to fit a body. However, Kristin Smart’s remains have yet to be found.
Over the years, Paul Flores has casually brought this up in conversations. He told a previous roommate that Smart was buried under a gazebo in his backyard.
“Police are so bad at their job,” Lambert said in the podcast, citing Paul’s comment to his roommate. “They have been standing on top of her the whole time and still couldn’t find her.”
The discovery of this ditch would lead to the arrest of Paul and Ruben Flores on April 13.
The podcast describes that when Paul Flores was growing up, he earned an unfavorable reputation fairly quickly.
While attending Cal Poly, Paul Flores would ask people to urinate on him during parties in exchange for money or to sit bottomless on a clear, glass coffee table while he lied beneath, according to the podcast.
His behavior led to a copious amount of incidents and run-ins with women. One woman recounts a time where he claims she was ‘cockblocking’ him, then proceeds to body slam her against a wall.
“When Kristin Smart went missing, I remember looking at her and feeling similar,” the unnamed woman said in the podcast. “This could have been any of us.”
“He was the type of guy you don’t want to be alone with,” another woman said.
Paul Flores watched and followed everybody, according to the podcast. Since Smart, Paul Flores has been filming himself raping intoxicated women — video evidence later disclosed to San Luis Obispo County Superior Court by the prosecution.
On the night of May 25, 1996, Paul watched and followed Smart the entire night at an off-campus party. Various men there said he was ”predatory” and waited so that he could be alone with her.
In episode 10 of the podcast, “The Beginning of The End Part 2,” Lambert said he believes Paul Flores drugged Smart at the party, which he has been accused of doing to other women in later years.
While walking her home, Paul Flores took Smart to his Santa Lucia Hall dorm, which was empty for the Memorial Day weekend. Shortly after, a student said they noticed a pair of women’s undergarments behind Fremont Hall.
Two days later, in an infamous mugshot, Paul Flores dons a black eye. Lambert said that his gut tells him that it’s just as likely that he got the black eye from Ruben Flores during an argument or during the attempt to bury a body under the deck with little headroom at the far end.
After looking at the bigger picture, Lambert realized that “it takes a great suspension of disbelief to accept Paul’s story that Kristin Smart, a woman too intoxicated to walk home on her own, was spared from this very consistent pattern of Paul’s behavior.”
In the podcast, Lambert said dozens of witnesses are expected to testify during the hearing.
“My goal remains the same: to find the current location of Kristin Smart,” Lambert said in the podcast. “And we may have a pretty good lead.”