Thursday’s proceedings for the Kristin Smart murder trial consisted of testimony from a trace evidence specialist and a witness who recounted what Paul Flores told her in 1996.
Faye Springer, a private contractor for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office who specializes in trace evidence, was first on the stand.
Springer described trace evidence to the court as “evidence that’s small in size, hence the name of being ‘trace,’” specifically naming fiber, hair, paint and glass as examples.
Judge Jennifer O’Keefe agreed to designate Springer as an expert in her field, citing her approximately 50 years of experience in trace evidence.
On May 27, 2021, Springer received an evidence package from the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department containing three tape lifts.
She described tape lifts as a “very common way of collecting and preserving trace evidence,” and explained that she commonly looks at them through a microscope to analyze fibers.
The evidence package also contained a hairbrush, which Springer assumed was there for comparison purposes if any of the fibers turned out to be hairs. She said, however, that none of the fibers she found on the tape lift were hairs.
Springer said she found multiple fibers in the tape lifts of multiple colors, including red, blue, brown, black and some of a “light color” that she couldn’t specifically tell.
“Could they have been white?” prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle asked.
“Yes,” said Springer, adding that there was also “decomposing plant material and soil on the loose” on the lifts.
Springer said some of the fibers were cotton and some synthetic, although she didn’t check what material the synthetic ones were made out of. Peuvrelle asked her specifically if they could’ve been nylon, and she said yes.
Kristin Smart was wearing red shoes, black vinyl shorts and a gray top the night she went missing.
The fibers were preserved for future comparison. Springer said she never received any material to compare them to, however, and said she can’t assign any importance to the fibers without comparing them to another material— that is, she doesn’t know what material they are or where they came from, only that they are synthetic.
“This collection of things that you looked at, these little fibers, they were consistent with things you would find around a construction site or a house?” asked Paul Flores’ attorney, Robert Sanger, during his cross examination.
“They could be, sure,” Springer said.
She added that she didn’t know who marked the evidence, and re-stated that she did not do a comparison analysis on the fibers.
“When you’re doing trace evidence, one of the main things that you are asked to do generally is to compare what you find to something else,” Sanger said. “You were not asked to do that in this case?”
“No,” Springer said.
She said that nobody gave her any items of clothing to compare the fibers to, and that she wasn’t given an original “source” (the actual item of clothing that prosecutors may have suspected that the fibers were from) for comparison.
“If there was an excavation to retrieve soil and from the soil fibers are taken, is it possible… for the excavation site to be contaminated by the clothing of the people doing the excavation?” asked Sanger.
“Yes,” Springer said.
Sanger showed photos to Springer of the excavation and pointed specifically to the people working on the excavations.
“Are there any potential sources of contamination in this photograph?” he asked.
“The people doing the digging, their clothing might leave these fibers,” Springer said, adding later that a dryer vent in the photo could also potentially contribute to the presence of the fibers.
She also agreed with Sanger when he said that these were “very small fibers” to be found in a burial site, which typically contains “a lot of extraneous material that goes along with fiber” according to Springer.
In these burial sites, according to Springer, fibers can decompose and change their appearance. They are affected by the elements, like soil.
Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Mesick, only had one question for Springer.
“Mr. Peuvrelle asked you if you could assign any significance to this miniscule amount of trace material,” Mesick said. “Do you remember…. you said no?”
“I cannot assign any significance,” Springer said.
During opening statements in July, prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle told the jury that a SLO local named Jenifer Hudson heard Paul Flores admit to burying Smart in Huasna, an unincorporated town of San Luis Obispo County. Peuvrelle promised that they would hear from her later in the trial.
Hudson took the stand on Thursday, testifying that Paul Flores admitted to the murder in a “social environment” where people would go to skate in 1996. She described the area as somebody’s house in the county where skaters would get together and skate on a ramp in the backyard.
Hudson said that she and another person, who went by the name of “Red,” were sitting on a couch outside facing a skate ramp. Paul Flores sat down across from them, about 5 feet away.
The radio was playing, and Hudson said that, in 1996, the radio would often have “public outreaches” about Kristin Smart during commercial breaks. After one of these outreaches, Hudson testified that Paul Flores “made a statement” about Smart.
Hudson said Flores told her “that bitch was a dick tease” and that he was “done playing with her.” Hudson recalled him saying he either “put her” or “buried her” under his skate ramp in Huasna.
Peuvrelle asked Hudson to describe Paul Flores’ demeanor when he made this statement, which she described as “very cold.”
“Even after all these decades, his eyes are what made me 1,000% believe it wasn’t a joke,” Hudson said. “There was nothing alive behind his eyes.”
According to Hudson, Paul Flores had “no smirk, no smile, no tone of, ‘I’m being funny’” when he made the statement. She described him as being really pale and made note of his eyes multiple times, at one point referring to them as a “dead person’s eyes.”
She said she left the function “within a couple minutes” because she was so “creeped out” by the encounter.
“I was 17 years old,” Hudson said. “It was scary.”
About two weeks later, Hudson saw Paul Flores again. Some people who attended a party at Hudson’s neighbor’s house asked her to drive them to a nearby skate ramp, where they said they were going to meet a friend. Hudson said this is the same ramp Flores mentioned in their conversation two weeks earlier.
Hudson drove the two people and followed a white truck to a ramp in Huasna that was on a “rural road,” one that Hudson doesn’t believe has a name.
Once she arrived, she saw Paul Flores getting out of the white pickup. He approached her and asked her if she wanted to skate with them.
“As soon as I recognized him, I got ill,” Hudson said, adding that she left immediately after realizing that he was the same person who admitted to Smart’s murder a few weeks prior.
Peuvrelle asked Hudson why she didn’t tell the police about either encounter.
“I was afraid,” Hudson said.
Hudson testified that she didn’t have any family, nor a “place to hide” at that point in her life.
“It’s not an excuse, but that’s what it is,” Hudson added.
Hudson said she only ever told one person about what Paul Flores said: Justin Goodwin, a former roommate, whom she told in 2002 when they were “very drunk.”
Sometime around 2019, Hudson found out that Goodwin had put in an anonymous tip with the police about the encounter. By that point, Hudson and Goodwin hadn’t talked for almost 20 years.
Hudson remembered telling Goodwin that she didn’t want anyone to know because she was terrified of dealing with the police.
“I didn’t want anyone to know,” Hudon said. “I didn’t want to be involved at all.”
Sanger asked Hudson about this during his round of cross examination, noting that she was 24 in 2002.
“So, you’re not a scared 17-year-old in 2002,” he said.
“I’m still scared,” Hudson said. “I’m not a 17 year old.”
Hudson told Sanger that she didn’t know Paul Flores before the night of the encounter, but Sanger said that Goodwin “said you used to stay up all night doing meth with him.”
Hudson said this was “absolutely” incorrect, and said that she first associated Paul Flores’ name with his face years after the encounter after seeing a show on TV that identified him as a suspect in the case.
Sanger also questioned whether Hudson told anyone else about what she heard between 2002 and 2019, but she maintained that Goodwin was the only person she told until 2019.
In 2019, after Goodwin put the tip in with the police, he reached out to Hudson to tell her to contact Chris Lambert, who created the “Your Own Backyard” podcast about the Smart case.
Lambert had spoken about the anonymous tip on the podcast, and Hudson said that Goodwin told her to speak to Lambert about the encounter in hopes that it may help the police find Smart’s body.
Hudson did eventually meet with Lambert in 2019, where she took him, Goodwin and a real estate agent to the place where she saw Paul Flores getting out of his pickup truck in Huasna. Hudson suspects that this is where Paul Flores said he buried Smart’s body.
After that, Hudson spoke with the police. Sanger said that Goodwin told Hudson to make a good showing to the police so that they could get the reward money offered for information on the case, but Hudson disagreed.
Sanger read one of his own statements from the preliminary hearings in 2021, where he told Hudson that “‘[Goodwin said to] make the best showing possible so that he, and perhaps Mr. Lambert, could get the reward right?’ And your answer was ‘correct.’”
Hudson said Sanger’s statement was “ridiculous” and missing context.
“I can’t imagine that Goodwin just came out and said ‘put on a show,’” Hudson said.
Hudson added that she and Goodwin stopped talking after 2019 because she “didn’t like [Goodwin and Lambert’s] posture on any of this.”
After this, Sanger looked for evidence that was presented in the preliminary hearings. No one in the court was able to provide the documents, so Judge O’Keefe released the jury early.
Court proceedings are set to resume Monday morning.