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Kristin Smart murder trial: Dog handler questioned about search of Paul Flores' dorm room

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Posted at 1:24 PM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-15 22:32:35-04

The Kristin Smart murder trial entered week five Monday.

The trial for Paul and Ruben Flores is taking place in Salinas. Paul is charged with murder in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. His father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory.

Monday morning, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Investigator JT Camp once again took the stand to show pictures of and explain the layout of the Cal Poly red brick dorms; however, the majority of the day was dedicated to questioning a dog handler who searched a portion of the Cal Poly campus and one of the dorm buildings with a dog trained to find human remains.

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JT Camp takes the stand Aug. 15, 2022

Camp showed multiple pictures of both the Santa Lucia and Muir Hall dorm buildings as well as Kristin Smart’s and Paul Flores’ dorm rooms.

His testimony was likely to clear up some confusion during testimony late last week where one witness had trouble recalling the exact location of the rooms even though he had reported seeing Kristin in Paul’s room.

During cross examination, there was some noticeable tension between Camp and Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger.

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Paul Flores' attorney Robert Sanger in court Aug. 15, 2022

Sanger asked about whether or not any changes had occurred between 1996 and when the pictures were taken in June of 2021.

At one point, Sanger asked Camp if he “made some notes about the dorms during his own time living there in the early 90s,” but quickly withdrew the question. Camp told the jury that he’d been in both dorm buildings during his time as a Cal Poly student.

The rest of the day was spent with dog handler Adela Morris.

San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle spent a couple of hours having her layout her qualifications and experience.

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Deputy DA Christopher Peuvrelle in court Aug. 15, 2022

Morris has spent more than 30 years training dogs to detect the smell of human remains.

Her dog, Cholla, was the first dog ever certified in California for that particular type of search.

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Cholla is certified to detect human remains and searched Paul Flores' dorm room building after Kristin Smart's disappearance.

Even though Morris had trouble recalling specifics, she has several certifications of her own and has been part of hundreds of searches for missing remains. She is now training her seventh dog.

Morris and two of her dogs were called to help in the search for Kristin Smart in June of 1996. She testified that Cholla was asked to search the first floor of the Santa Lucia dorm building in what was a called a blind search where the handler was not told what she was specifically looking for or where.

Morris says she let Cholla off leash and she alerted to Paul’s dorm room door. Once inside, Morris says Cholla alerted multiple times to a mattress in the room.

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Adela Morris, an expert witness in human cadaver dog handling, testifies Aug. 15, 2022

Morris also searched with a second dog that she says alerted to the same area in the same room.  

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Dog handler, Cirque

Before wrapping up his questioning, Peuvrelle asked Morris several questions submitted by jurors including whether the dogs would alert to blood on a bandage. Morris said yes, they would.

There were also several questions about certification including whether the dogs would fail if they had a “false positive” find during testing. Morris said that would disqualify them from certification.  

Sanger began his cross examination by asking about Morris’ qualifications, He pointed out that her dogs are certified by a private organization with no government oversight.

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Paul and Ruben Flores in court Aug. 15, 2022

Morris responded by saying the organization uses standards approved by the state office of emergency services.  

Sanger asked if Morris has a college degree or if she was the sole author of any of her research. She replied no to both questions.  

Morris is expected to be on the stand again Tuesday morning.  

So far, there are five remaining alternates on Paul’s jury and three alternates still seated on Ruben’s jury. Each defendant started with eight alternates.

At one point during testimony Monday, a bailiff had one juror stand up for a brief time. The juror was noticeably having trouble staying awake during some of the testimony.

The trial is not being televised. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe is only allowing still photography of the proceedings, which are expected to last into October.