Witnesses Tuesday in the preliminary hearing for the father and son charged in the death of Kristin Smart were asked to recall the 25-year-old details leading up to her disappearance just before Memorial Day 1996.
Paul Flores, 44, of San Pedro is was charged with murder in connection to Smart’s disappearance on May 25, 1996, and his father, 80-year-old Ruben Flores, of Arroyo Grande, was charged with accessory to murder after the fact and his accused of hiding her body. The 19-year-old Cal Poly freshman was declared legally dead in 2002 and her body has never been found.
San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow charged Paul and Ruben Flores on April 14, one day after they were arrested following search warrants served on their residences. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Stan and Denise Smart, Kristin Smart’s parents, were cross-examined by Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle during the second day of testimony, and defense attorneys Bob Sanger and Harold Mesick, who represent Paul Flores and Ruben Flores, respectively, attempted to establish the circumstances of the college freshman’s state of mind at the time of her disappearance.
The preliminary hearing for two men charged in the death of Kristin Smart started Monday in San Luis Obispo with the cross examination of the Cal Poly freshman’s parents, who recounted the last correspondence they had with their daughter in the months leading up to her disappearance in 1996.
Additionally, witnesses Eric Grasso and Kendra Koed testified they remembered seeing Paul Flores and Kristin Smart at an off-campus party before she disappeared.
Peuvrelle called four witnesses, beginning with Steve Fleming, a former Cal Poly basketball player and friend of Smart during her freshman year.
Fleming, 45, testified that he attended Cal Poly on a basketball scholarship and recalled confiding in Smart several times about the stress of a rigorous student-athlete schedule, but added their relationship was never romantic.
During questioning, Fleming recalled his time living on the third floor of the Muir Hall dorm, two floors above Kristin Smart’s dorm room. Fleming, who was a captain in the U.S. Army with combat experience and a former Berkeley Police officer, commanded a Michael Clarke Duncan-like presence in court, but softened when he spoke of Kristin Smart.
“She’s so tall, that’s how our friendship got started,” Fleming said. “Overall, she was just nice, I don’t know how else to explain it to you. You just have people who got you and she got me.”
He recalled seeing Paul Flores “lurking” inside the dorm on random nights and seeing them together inside her dorm room on one occasion, saying that she looked uncomfortable.
“[Kristin] was nervous,” Fleming said. “I don’t know how else to explain it.”
Later, witnesses Matthew Toomey and Cheryl Manzer were called to the stand and recalled seeing both Paul Flores and Kristin Smart at the off-campus party.
Toomey, a Cal Poly student at the time, testified that he attended the party on Crandall Way along with a friend, recalling that he saw both Paul Flores and Kristin Smart.
When Toomey left at about midnight, he remembered seeing Smart lying on a nearby lawn and offered assistance, but she refused help.
Manzer was called next and asked to recount her memories from the party and the subsequent walk back to her residence with Kristin Smart, Paul Flores and her friend, Tim Davis.
She remembered leaving the party with Davis sometime at about 1 or 2 a.m. and, in the process, Manzer saw Davis helping Smart, who appeared to be intoxicated, after finding her lying down. Then Paul Flores joined them as the three walked back to their residences.
Davis split from the group, leaving Manzer with Flores and Smart. The trip across campus took longer than the usual 15 minutes because they walked slow and stopped at least twice, with Flores telling her that he could help Smart on his own, according to Manzer. She eventually split from the group once they reached the corner of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue and after Flores said he’d take her back to her dorm room.
When they reached the corner, Manzer said Flores attempted to hug and kiss her, but she refused his advances.
“It was concerning because I did not want to walk back by myself and he said go ahead,” Manzer said.
During cross examination of the three witnesses, Sanger challenged whether Toomey truly recognized Flores from campus or only after “intense” media coverage of the case, he said. Toomey said he did recognize Flores and Manzer knew Flores before attending the party.
Toward the end of the day Tuesday, Peuvrelle called San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detective Clint Cole, whose testimony is anticipated to resume Wednesday during the third day of the preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Dept. 5 of Superior Court in San Luis Obispo.