Without a body in the 1996 San Luis Obispo case, prosecutors concluded their presentation in the Kristin Smart murder trial with a sexually explicit screenshot of another woman with a red ball gag in her mouth on accused killer Paul Flores’ San Pedro bed.
The image came from Paul Flores’ computer, experts said.
Judge Jennifer O’Keefe instructed the Monterey County jury on Tuesday that this was only corroborative evidence of a single detail in the testimonies of two women who told the panel they were raped by Flores and that he was one own a red ball gag.
The jury had previously heard these women testify that the man who last saw Kristin Smart on May 25, 1996 on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus before she disappeared sexually assaulted her in Los Angeles in 2008 and 2011 . The judge called Video that the image was shocking and said she selected the least inflammatory still. Robert Sanger, Flores’ attorney, called it unduly prejudicial outside of the panel’s presence.
San Luis Obispo County Dist. atty Chris Peuvrelle has been trying for over two months to show the jury that Paul Flores previously raped and killed 19-year-old Smart with the help of his father Ruben Flores and hid Smart’s remains. The elder Flores is also being charged with complicity at the same time as he is accused of helping dispose of the Cal Poly student’s body. Separate juries hearing the case together will decide each man’s fate.
The judge denied a motion by Paul and Ruben Flores to have the case dismissed. Sanger, Flores’ attorney, told the judge there was “no evidence of a murder case, no evidence of a rape and no evidence in this case.”
Ruben Flores went even further. Harold Mesick told the judge, “We don’t even know if Kristin Smart is dead.”
These lawyers on Wednesday began smashing the prosecution’s theory, knowing that without a body and DNA linking Flores and Smart, despite the days of testimony, they only have to convince the jury that there was reasonable doubt about the crime exists.
Smart’s disappearance and murder investigation have haunted the Central Coast college community for decades, with posters calling for evidence to convict their killer. Her body was never found, but she was legally pronounced dead in 2002.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested 44-year-old Paul Flores at his San Pedro home in April 2021. His father Ruben was taken into custody at his home in Arroyo Grande, Calif. last year after prosecutors say he moved Smart’s body.
Smart was last seen walking near dormitories with Paul Flores after attending a party. Both were Cal Poly students at the time.
A San Luis Obispo County judge ordered the trial moved 126 miles north to Monterey County to ensure a fair trial.
During the trial, which began July 18, a prosecutor asked witness Jennifer Hudson to testify that Paul Flores admitted the crime to her in 1996.
“I stopped playing with her and I put her under my ramp,” Hudson said as a witness, implying that his Flores words appeared to be referring to a local skateboard ramp. But she didn’t tell anyone about those words for years, and informed the case’s lead investigator in 2019. She also admitted on the witness stand to having used methamphetamines during that time, but not on the day she heard Flores’ alleged testimony.
In other key testimonies, neighbors, a former girlfriend of Paul Flores, and a tenant at Ruben Flores’ home all testified about an area below the deck of the elder Flores’ Arroyo Grande home. The prosecutor challenged testimonies to show that Smart’s body was hidden there for years and eventually moved. A March 2021 search of the Arroyo Grande home led investigators to find an area of disturbed soil.
One archaeologist, Cindy Arrington, testified that she and a colleague found stains in the soil consistent with human decomposition and a disturbance that the soil was removed and reattached.
The jury also heard from the two women who accused Paul Flores of sexual assault in LA. Rhonda Doe, a court-assigned alias, testified that she met him at Thirsty Bar in Redondo Beach in 2008 and ran to his home, drank a glass of water and blacked out.
She said she woke up to find he was having sex with her without her consent, and she recalled falling and passing out repeatedly and remembering a ball gag in her mouth. She testified that she cried when she regained consciousness and told him to drive her home, which he did. The woman said she came forward after seeing his picture on the news and recognizing him.
A second woman, known in court as Sarah Doe, testified that Paul Flores raped her in 2011 after meeting him at a bar in San Pedro where she was having four or five drinks. When he got home, he offered her a soft drink, then she said she remembered falling unconscious as he raped her on his bed and in the shower, trying to put a red ball gag in her mouth push.
She testified that she tried to report the incident to the police several years later, but was unable to complete the report after questioning. But she testified that she told two friends about it.
The true crime podcast Your Own Backyard is credited by authorities with reigniting interest in the Smart case and helping identify potential new witnesses and investigative avenues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-21/kristin-smart-murder-trial-prosecutors-show-graphic-images Kristin Smart murder case hinges on graphic image, rape claims