The Kristin Smart murder trial continued in a Salinas courtroom Thursday with the prosecution calling to the stand, once again, an archaeologist who assisted with excavation under the deck of Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home in March of 2021.
Cindy Arrington has been an archaeologist for nearly 30 years. She was sworn in to comb over the findings of the dig of Ruben’s backyard in March of last year.
Arrington testified that during excavation and use of ground-penetrating radar, several anomalies in the soil were found, including darker soil consistent with human decomposition.
Her company, Natural Investigations Company, was hired by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office the same month the excavation occurred.
Arrington testified that she and Phil Hanes, an expert in ground-penetrating radar who testified Wednesday, used the technology and came to the conclusion that there was a disturbance in the area under the deck in the backyard of Ruben’s home, testifying that soil had been removed at one point and put back.
During their analysis, Arrington says they started finding dark staining, consistent with human decomposition, about two feet deep.
Arrington said that they continued finding dark staining in the soil deeper, at one point stating that the staining shouldn’t be in that soil.
San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle asked Arrington whether she could tell if the dig had been done by hand or a machine. She responded by saying it was likely dug by hand.
Arrington said two employees from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office completed the excavation under the deck, and she said she observed the operation.
Peuvrelle asked if all industry standards were used in this excavation, according to her, and Arrington said they were up to standard.
Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, objected several times during the witness testimony. Each time, it was overruled by Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe, who is presiding over the case.
During trial proceedings Thursday when photos of the soil staining were shown, a juror on Paul’s jury started crying, causing Judge O’Keefe to stop testimony and take lunch early. Other jurors also reportedly had tears in their eyes.
During Sanger’s cross examination of Arrington in the afternoon, Sanger brought into question comments the archaeologist had made to law enforcement following the excavation about what the staining could have been.
Sanger asked if she had mentioned to investigators that the stains could have been caused by roots. Arrington responded that they could have been roots, human or animal. She then said, “I would say it’s organic material.”
Sanger then asked Arrington if there were any fibers or pieces of fabric found in the site, something like a tarp that a body could have been wrapped in, and Arrington said that there was nothing found. She then mentioned that tarps are not organic material and decompose at a much slower rate than organic material.
Sanger asked how many times Arrington’s company had used ground-penetrating radar in cases prior to the dig in the Flores backyard, and she said it was only a small percentage.
Witness testimony is scheduled to continue Friday morning.
Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested in April 2021. Paul is charged with the murder of Kristin Smart, who disappeared after an off-campus party in May 1996. Ruben is charged as an accessory, accused of helping hide the body.
While Kristin’s body has never been found, she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Opening statements in the father and son's trial began July 18. While they are being tried at the same time, Paul and Ruben each have separate juries who will hand down separate verdicts.
The judge has indicated the trial, which was moved out of San Luis Obispo County, could last into October.