NewsKristin Smart Case


Witnesses recall seeing Kristin Smart, Paul Flores at party before her disappearance

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Posted at 8:17 AM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 01:46:47-04

UPDATE (7:22 p.m.) - Three more witnesses took the stand Tuesday afternoon in the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores, the two men charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.

Matthew Toomey

In 1996, Matthew Toomey was a Cal Poly student living in the Sierra Madre dorms and a member of the Kappa Chi fraternity. He was also at the party both Kristin and Paul attended on the night of her disappearance.

Toomey testified that he got to the party on Crandall Way with his friend Ross Ketchum at around 9 p.m. He says Kristin Smart, who introduced herself as "Roxy," came up to him and asked if his friend, Ross, would find her attractive. Toomey said it appeared Kristin had been drinking because her gait and speech were slightly impaired.

Toomey said Kristin kissed Ross and another friend named Trevor.

Toomey said Paul Flores asked him if Ross was dating Kristin. He said it appeared Flores was interested in Kristin based on the way he was asking questions. He described Flores as being socially awkward.

At around midnight, Toomey said he and Ross left the party and saw Kristin lying on a nearby lawn even more intoxicated. He said they asked if she needed help and offered to walk her home but Kristin said "leave me alone."

During cross-examination, Paul's attorney, Robert Sanger, asked Toomey if he remembered seeing Scott Peterson and several other people at the party but he said he did not recall.

Toomey said he doesn't have personal knowledge of what happened to Kristin after seeing her on the lawn.

Cheryl Manzer

Cheryl Manzer also lived in the Sierra Madre dorms and attended the party on May 24, 1996.

Manzer testified that she had roughly 3-4 beers over the course of 4-5 hours at the party.

She said she left the party at around 1 a.m. with a friend and saw another friend helping Kristin Smart. All four of them walked back to the dorms together.

Prosecutor Christopher Peuvrelle attempted to ask Manzer about any encounters she had with Paul Flores prior to the party when Judge Craig van Rooyen sustained Sanger's objection to the line of questioning.

Manzer went on to testify that Flores joined her group as they walked back to the dorms and he put his arm around Kristin's waist.

Manzer said she split off from Paul and Kristin when they got to the corner of Grand and Perimeter. She said Paul asked for a kiss and then a hug when she turned him down. She then asked Paul if he would take Kristin back to her dorm room and he said, "yes," Manzer testified.

Manzer said the last image she has is Paul with his arm around Kristin's waist. "I didn't think anything bad would happen to her," she said.

Under cross-examination, Sanger asked Manzer if she saw Paul touch Kristin inappropriately and she answered "no."

Det. Clinton Cole, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office

Det. Clinton Cole took the stand at around 4:15 p.m. and testified that he was arranging to get a copy of a booking photo purportedly of Paul Flores when he turned himself into the Arroyo Grande Police Department for driving on a suspended license.

The photo has yet to be entered into evidence and Sanger had some objections to the photo.

Court will resume Wednesday on this topic.

UPDATE (11:10 a.m.) - COVID-19 concerns were the first topic of discussion Tuesday during the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores.

Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, brought up concerns regarding COVID-19 and the Delta variant at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, where 44-year-old Paul is currently being held, and said Paul may be at-risk in the courtroom.

Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle said at least two witnesses summoned for the hearing will not be taking the stand due to possible COVID-19 exposure and Sanger suggested the court look at possible changes in an effort to keep everyone safe.

Judge Craig van Rooyen says the hearing will continue in person, but added that everyone in the courtroom will need to wear face coverings unless asking questions.

Once that discussion was over, the fifth witness was called to the stand.

Steven Fleming

Veteran and retired Berkeley police officer Steven Fleming says he lived on the third floor of Muir Hall at Cal Poly from 1995-1996, the same dorm Kristin Smart lived in as a freshman.

Fleming testified that he saw Kristin frequently, adding that they had classes together, studied together, went to some of the same parties and she sometimes attended some of his basketball games, calling it a good friendship.

Peuvrelle showed Fleming photos of Muir Hall and Fleming identified his and Kristin’s rooms.

The former Cal Poly student testified that he saw Paul Flores at the dorm twice in the spring of 1996. He said one time he was by himself on Kristin’s floor and another time by himself on the floor above “lurking” and looking “creepy and weird.”

Fleming said he once saw Paul in Kristin’s room on the first floor and looking back, he thinks Kristin looked uncomfortable, standoffish and nervous. He described that as weird since, according to him, Kristin was usually friendly and welcoming and left her dorm room open so people could come in and talk.

Sanger objected multiple times during the testimony, saying Fleming was creating a narrative and not answering questions. Judge van Rooyen sustained many of the objections, calling on the witness to stay on track.

Sanger then cross-examined Fleming, asking if it was true that he was first interviewed by the FBI in 1999 to which Fleming answered, “yes.” Sanger then asked Fleming if he had reported his observations he mentioned in court to authorities prior to 1999. Fleming replied, “no.”

Sanger asked whether Fleming knew he was the only person to have reported seeing Kristin interact with Paul Flores outside of the party they both attended the night she disappeared. Fleming told the court he wasn’t sure.

Fleming lived in the dorms from 1995-1996 and when asked by Sanger if he knew Kristin had lived off campus before moving into Muir Hall in January of 1996, Fleming again said he wasn’t sure, but did say he knew she moved into the dorms a little later than he did.

Following a short break, questioning of Fleming continued.

He was reportedly interviewed by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office last month.

When referencing that report, in which Sanger said Fleming calls Paul Flores “creepy” several times, Sanger said Fleming could not be 100 percent sure Paul was who he saw in Kristin’s dorm room on at least one occasion in 1996.

When asked by the defense whether Kristin had romantic relationships with men, used a nickname or wanted to model, whether he was familiar with Crandall Way or ever went to a party there, Fleming answered, “I do not recall” to most questions.

Ruben’s attorney, Harold Mesick, asked Fleming whether he asked Paul to leave when he saw him in Kristin’s room. Fleming replied saying he just walked by and didn’t really stop but now feels somewhat responsible for not stepping in at the time.

The defense continued questioning Fleming, who went back and forth on what he was sure he remembered or just thought he saw.

Sanger accused Fleming of having an opinion of Flores following years of national coverage on Kristin’s case.

Peuvrelle then showed Fleming a copy of a police report to help refresh his memory after which Fleming says he is 100 percent certain it was Paul Flores who he saw in Kristin’s dorm room.

“So you weren’t sure, but now you are sure?” Sanger asked Fleming. Fleming replied yes, saying some memories are coming back to him now.

The court then recessed for an afternoon break.


ORIGINAL STORY: Paul and Ruben Flores are returning to the courtroom Tuesday for day two of their preliminary hearing.

Monday, Stan and Denise Smart both took to the stand, being questioned by San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle before being cross-examined by the defense.

Two people who say they attended a party with Stan and Denise’s daughter, Kristin, the night she disappeared in May 1996 were also called to testify.

Witnesses say Paul, 44, was the last person to be seen with Kristin.

He's charged with murder in connection with the Cal Poly freshman’s disappearance more than 25 years ago. His 80-year-old father, Ruben, is charged with accessory after the fact.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

The preliminary hearing is expected to last up to three weeks. Multiple witnesses are expected to be called and evidence submitted before the judge decides whether there is enough evidence against the father and son duo to move their cases forward to trial.

KSBY has a crew in the courtroom and will provide updates as they become available.

The judge has placed strict restrictions on what can and cannot be shown or recorded during the hearing.