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Testimony details search of Flores property as week 6 of preliminary hearing in Kristin Smart case wraps up

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Posted at 9:08 AM, Sep 09, 2021

The sixth week of testimony in the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores wraps up Thursday.

Both are charged in connection with the death of Kristin Smart, who was a Cal Poly freshman when she disappeared after attending an off-campus party in 1996.

On Wednesday, the judge cited the Shield Law and First Amendment rights when ruling that “Your Own Backyard” podcaster Chris Lambert would not be testifying or need to hand over documents related to Kristin’s case.

The court then heard from more people about what was found during a March 2021 search of Ruben’s home.

Forensic serologist Angela Butler testified that human blood was found in soil samples collected but added that DNA was not detected in any of the samples.

Thursday, testimony began with cross-examination of San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Specialist Shelby Liddell, who testified that she was involved in collecting soil samples and taking photos at Ruben's Arroyo Grande home in March and April of this year.

Liddell said there were 11 areas where ground-penetrating radar was used in the backyard and four of those spots, which showed anomalies, were excavated.

Liddell said that in one of those excavation sites under the deck, staining in the soil was discovered at around two to two-and-a-half feet and continued down.

She testified that something could have been buried above the location to leave that kind of staining and said it did not appear the stains had been disturbed.

In April, Liddell said there were two separate digs under the deck. She said one area was redug because it tested positive for human blood after the March dig.

She added that a second area above the first dig that was difficult to access but not impossible was also excavated after decking was removed.

Soil samples were taken from both spots.

Paul's attorney, Robert Sanger, questioned whether the deck looked like it had been removed before and Liddell said no.

She said there were multiple stains under the deck and the shape and size changed throughout the digging.

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Defense attorney Robert Sanger in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (Pool photo by Dave Minsky/Santa Maria Times)

Sanger pointed out that in the middle of the dig area under the deck there's a sewage clean-up valve, to the right of that a dryer vent, and next to that another vent for the crawl space under the house.

Liddell was the only witness to testify on Thursday.

The defense is filing a motion to suppress, quash and traverse three search warrants from March and April. Sanger said his client has the legitimate expectation of privacy in the areas that were searched.

The defense also went over their possible witnesses. Various detectives will testify, among others, but the judge ruled that convicted murderer Scott Peterson will not be allowed to testify.

The judge said there was no evidence of any connection between Smart and Peterson or that he was even at the same party on Crandall Way that Paul and Kristin attended just before her disappearance.

Paul Flores is charged with Kristin Smart's murder and is being held without bail. His father, Ruben, is charged as an accessory and is currently out on bail.

Kristin’s body has never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

Court will not be in session Friday and next week is dark, but the preliminary hearing will pick back up on the week of September 20.