Jurors on Monday heard evidence for the first time in the murder case against Paul Flores.
The 45-year-old is on trial and charged with the death of Kristin Smart, who disappeared from the Cal Poly campus at the age of 19 in 1996.
While her body has never been found, she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Paul’s father, Ruben, is also on trial, accused of helping his son cover up the crime.
“Evidence will show that Paul Flores murdered Kristen Smart and buried her under the deck,” San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christoper Peuvrelle told jurors during opening statements Monday morning in a Salinas courtroom.
Peuvrelle was referring to a deck behind Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.
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The prosecutor laid out a timeline for jurors and highlighted upcoming testimony from several witnesses.
He told jurors that he believes Paul walked Kristin back to his dorm on the Cal Poly campus and murdered her before later moving the body to his father’s home with Ruben’s help.
Peuvrelle showed jurors several photos of Paul’s dorm room and talked about four different cadaver dogs that alerted to the smell of decomposing human remains after a blind search of the building.
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Peuvrelle also told jurors about several searches of Ruben’s home where he says some soil samples tested positive for human blood.
He also questioned Paul's character, bringing up later allegations by several women who claim he drugged and sexually assaulted them.
The prosecution was able to get a federal wiretap warrant in 2020 and listened in on several phone conversations between Paul and his family.
Peuvrelle played a portion of one of those phone calls in which Susan Flores, Paul’s mother, tells Paul, “I need you start to listening to the ["Your Own Backyard"] podcast… I need you to poke holes in it where you can.”
It was then the defense’s turn to present its opening statement. Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, said the statement about the podcast was part of a 27-minute conversation between Paul and Susan and it doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing.
He pointed out to the jury that any mother whose son is accused of murder would want her son to point out any incorrect information in a podcast like “Your Own Backyard,” which is credited with helping generate more interest and information about Kristin’s case in recent years.
Sanger also fired back at the character allegations saying his client isn't perfect but none of the women's allegations has anything to do with what happened 26 years ago.
Sanger told jurors that the prosecution’s case is relying on circumstantial evidence at best and will provide expert witness testimony that disagrees with most of the findings.
He went on to say that prosecutors have no eyewitnesses, no body has ever been recovered, and the case is based on no physical or forensic evidence.
Sanger also told jurors that prosecutors want them to believe that Kristin was a successful student from a tight-knit, close family, but says she was engaged in risky behavior, had a history of disappearing with random friends, and wanted to drop out of school to pursue a modeling career.
Harold Mesick, the defense attorney for Ruben Flores, is expected to present his opening statement on Tuesday morning.
While Paul and Ruben are being tried at the same time, they each have separate juries.
Throughout much of the trial, there will be times when both juries hear the same evidence as it’s presented but other times, one jury may be removed from the courtroom if certain testimony or evidence is only admissible for one defendant.
The juries will each hand down separate verdicts once the trial wraps up, which is not expected until at least October.
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe is overseeing the trial in Salinas after a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge ruled Paul and Ruben were not likely to receive a fair and impartial trial in San Luis Obispo County after the years of extensive publicity the case has had.
The trial will not be live streamed as Judge O’Keefe is not allowing any audio or video recordings, only still photography.
Paul is currently being held in Monterey County Jail without bail. Ruben is out of custody after posting bail shortly after his arrest.