NewsKristin Smart Case


Cross examination of Kristin Smart's father turns tense during murder trial

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Posted at 2:23 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-23 00:31:05-04

Testimony resumed Friday in the case against Paul and Ruben Flores.

The father and son were arrested in April 2021 and charged in connection with the disappearance of Kristin Smart from the Cal Poly campus in 1996.

Paul, 45, is charged with murder. Ruben, 81, is charged as an accessory, accused of helping cover up the crime.

Paul has been a longtime person-of-interest in the case where witnesses said he was the last person to be seen with Kristin prior to her disappearance.

Though her body has never been found, Kristin was declared legally dead in 2002.

Opening statements in the trial began Monday, but a health issue delayed court for two days, resuming Thursday with the conclusion of opening statements and the first witness, Denise Smart, called to the stand.

Stan Smart

Friday morning, testimony resumed with the third witness: Stan Smart, Kristin’s father.

It was a tense back-and-forth between Paul Flores' defense attorney, Robert Sanger, and Stan as he was cross-examined by the defense.

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Stan Smart testifies in court as Paul Flores' attorney, Robert Sanger, looks on

Sanger presented multiple pieces of evidence, starting with an aerial image of Ruben Flores' home at 710 White Court in Arroyo Grande.

Sanger asked Stan if he recognized the location and if he had physically been there multiple times. Stan said he had only been there a "few" times.

Sanger also asked Stan to confirm that he had followed Ruben in a U-Haul truck leaving Ruben's home on August 17, 1996. Stan confirmed it, saying he was "worried things were being taken from the home" and that he missed his daughter.

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Stan Smart on the stand during his daughter's murder trial July 22, 2022

Cross examination became tense when Sanger asked Stan if he had ever gone to the Flores' home with anyone. Stan repeatedly said that he did not recall, prompting Sanger to ask him if the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office advised him to say he did not remember. Stan denied the allegation.

Sanger then showed Stan two fliers that depicted an image of Paul Flores, information about his appearance, details about Kristin's disappearance and information about a reward for finding her.

Stan was asked whether he had created the fliers. He testified that he did distribute them but said he did not make them.

Ruben Flores' attorney, Harold Mesick, then began cross examination of Stan also asking him about his multiple visits to 710 White Court, specifically asking if he had ever stepped foot on the Flores' property.

Stan said he had not.

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Ruben Flores and his defense attorney, Harold Mesick, during testimony by Stan Smart July 22, 2022

Mesick then asked Stan to recall an encounter with Ruben and an attorney where Stan was firmly instructed to not go to the White Court location. Stan replied that the home was on public roads and that he was allowed to drive by.

Vanessa Shields

The next witness to take the stand was Kristin's friend from Cal Poly, Vanessa Shields.

Shields told San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle that Kristin lived two doors down from her at Cal Poly and that she and two other girls in their hall would spend time together often.

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Vanessa Shields testifies July 22, 2022 about living near Kristin Smart at Cal Poly prior to Kristin's disappearance

Shields recalled that at multiple parties just weeks before Kristin's disappearance, Paul Flores was present as well, where she says he stared intently at Kristin, saying he was “just a creepy guy."

Sanger then asked Shields to recall when the FBI interviewed her within a year following Kristin's disappearance. He asked Shields if she had told them about her prior experience with Paul Flores. Shields answered that she did not recall

During cross examination by Mesick, Shields said that over the years, she has validated her belief that Paul is guilty, most notably after his arrest.

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Vanessa Shields was the fourth witness called to the stand in the Kristin Smart murder trial July 22, 2022

Shields also informed the court that she immediately recognized Paul when she saw his face popping up on fliers in the area, saying she knew he had something to do with Kristin's disappearance.

She also said that if the FBI had asked her about Paul during her interview, she would have told them what she knew.

Kendra Koed

The final witness to testify at the Salinas Courthouse Friday was Kendra Koed, who said she was a student at Cuesta College in May of 1996. While being cross examined by Peuvrelle, Koed recalled a house party she attended at 135 Crandall Way in San Luis Obispo. She proceeded to walk the courtroom through the sequence of events that took place at the party.

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Kendra Koed testified about a party she attended where Paul Flores and Kristin Smart were present in 1996

Koed testified that she approached numerous people at the event, asking them for gum. She recalled that one male responded, saying he did. She then pointed that male out in the courtroom, indicating that the reply came from the defendant, Paul Flores.

She says Paul then approached her and starting kissing her, with Koed saying she did not believe the kiss was consensual. Koed said she then followed Paul outside after he told her he had gum in his car and said Paul attempted to kiss her again. Koed said she then returned to the house party where she told her friends about what happened.

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Kendra Koed testifies in court with Christopher Peuvrelle, Paul Flores and Ruben Flores also shown in the courtroom

Koed then recalled greeting a friend who had just arrived at the party, when she saw a "tall girl" come in through the front door. She remembers seeing the girl, who Koed identified as Kristin Smart, fall to the ground while at the party, testifying that Paul Flores was standing over her when it happened.

Koed said the interaction made her feel "uncomfortable."

While still being questioned by Peuvrelle, Koed said she then helped Kristin out onto the front patio where she sat with her for a few minutes. She told the court she did so because Kristin "didn't seem sober" and that "she seemed like she needed a friend."

Koed then warned Kristin to stay away from Paul. Koed says Kristin told her that her name was "Roxy."

Koed continued her testimony, saying when she was leaving the party with friends, she saw Kristin laying down on the driveway outside of the house. Koed asked if she needed a ride home and said Kristin told her she already had one.

During Sanger's cross examination, he asked Koed about her involvement in social media efforts to find Kristin, as well as her participation in the production of Chris Lambert's podcast, "Your Own Backyard."

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Robert Sanger shows something to Kendra Koed in court July 22, 2022

Sanger then presented new items to be published as evidence including various screenshots showing that Koed and the "Your Own Backyard" podcast account followed each other on Instagram. Peuvrelle objected, saying it was improper to publish the screenshots as they may contain private information. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O'Keefe overruled the objection, saying no such details appeared to be present on the new images presented.

After this exchange, Sanger asked Koed if she had been interviewed by Lambert for the podcast. She replied that Lambert had interviewed her for Episode 2 of his series. Sanger then asked her if it appeared that Lambert was dedicated to the conviction of Paul. Koed responded saying he is dedicated to finding justice for Smart’s parents.

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Harold Mesick cross examines Kendra Koed in court July 22, 2022

During Mesick's cross examination, Koed was asked about her testimony in the preliminary hearings on August 2, 2021 in San Luis Obispo County. He noted that Koed had changed her profile picture on Facebook the following day, where she was depicted donning the color purple, a symbol both Mesick and Sanger presumed was associated with bringing justice to the Smart family. Koed confirmed that she had updated her photo, but did not comment on the significance of the color purple.

Witness testimonies are expected to continue in Monterey County court this coming Monday.

If convicted, Paul faces a sentence of 25 years to life and Ruben faces a sentence of three years in jail.

Paul is being held in Monterey County Jail during the trial.