Paul and Ruben Flores were back in a Salinas courtroom Thursday for the ongoing Kristin Smart murder trial.
The father and son are charged in connection with the Cal Poly freshman’s 1996 disappearance from the Cal Poly campus.
Paul is charged with murder while Ruben is charged as an accessory, accused of helping hide Kristin’s body, which has never been found.
An expert in trace evidence was the first on the witness stand Thursday.
Faye Springer is a private contractor for the Sacramento County District Attorney Office’s evidence lab.
She has spent much of her 50-year career working with “trace” or “very small” evidence including fiber, hair, paint and glass analysis and talked about some of what was found in soil samples from Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home during a 2021 search and dig operation.
Springer did the analysis of the fiber samples detectives say they found in the soil at Ruben’s home during searches. She said the fibers were already on “gel lifts,” described as a type of collection and preservation system used by detectives.
Springer said she could identify both natural and synthetic fibers in black, brown, blue and red, plus some fibers where the color could not be determined.
Kristin Smart was reported to have been wearing red and black when she went missing in May of 1996.
During cross examination Thursday morning, Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, clearly tried to counter the evidence.
He asked Springer if construction, other residents living in the house or even investigation crews could contaminate the scene and leave fibers behind. Springer said yes, it’s possible.
Sanger also once again brought out pink construction twine mentioned during testimony a few weeks ago. He asked if it was possible to confuse that with red synthetic fibers. Springer said she would have been able to identify differences in that type of synthetic fiber and a fluorescent pink and red wouldn’t look the same.
Sanger asked Springer if colors would fade over several years to which she replied, yes.
Late Wednesday, one of the jurors sent a note to the judge asking if the trial was set to wrap up by mid- or late-October. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe declined to speculate on how long the trial would last other than to say, once again, the proceedings are on schedule.
In the afternoon, Jennifer Hudson was called to the stand. She came forward after the “Your Own Backyard” podcast was released and said Paul told her back in 1996 that he put Kristin under the skate ramp on his property in Huasna.
Hudson testified that when she was 17-years-old in 1996, Paul told her that information when she met him at a skate ramp in San Luis Obispo.
She said a public service announcement came on the radio and Paul began talking about Kristin. She said she was terrified by what he said and she testified to remembering his "evil eyes."
She says a few weeks after seeing him in San Luis Obispo, she saw him again at a skate ramp in the Huasna area and because of what he had told her before, Hudson says she got sick to her stomach and left immediately and never told anyone else about it until much later.
Hudson says she kept the conversation until she told her friend, Justin Goodwin. She says Goodwin connected her with Lambert in 2019, who she spoke with prior to speaking with any authorities.
It was revealed in court that authorities found out about the Huasna tip by Goodwin, who alerted the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office through its anonymous tip line.
During cross-examination, Sanger pressed Hudson on why she eventually came forward with the information, accusing her of saying what Lambert told her to say and that she was trying to help Goodwin and Lambert collect the reward money.
It was revealed during cross examination that Hudson had taken Goodwin and Lambert to the area where the skate ramp was located in the 90s in Huasna.
Hudson says Lambert told her not to share the information with the sheriff's office, but adds that she told investigators everything when she eventually spoke with authorities.
Continuing on the argument that Hudson came forward because of the reward money, the defense began looking for copies of cell phone communications in court Thursday afternoon. After a short recess, the judge announced that the records would need to be located and that court would be ending early for the day. Hudson will be back on the stand when court resumes Monday.