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.

Paul Flores, 44, of San Pedro is charged with murdering Smart following her disappearance on May 25, 1996, and his father, 80-year-old Ruben Flores, of Arroyo Grande, is charged with murder accessory after the fact and accused of hiding her body, according to San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow.

Dow charged the two on April 14 after executing search warrants on their residences. Both men have pleaded not guilty. 

Paul Flores was allegedly the last person seen with Smart before she disappeared as they walked back to their Cal Poly dorm rooms after attending an off-campus party. The 19-year-old Smart was declared legally dead in 2002. Her body has never been recovered.

By law, defendants charged with felonies in California have the right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of arraignment, unless they waive that right or there is a grand jury.

The hearings act like mini-trials, during which evidence is presented to determine whether there is probable cause to uphold the charges and proven at a lower standard than at the actual trial. The preliminary hearing is expected to last up to 12 full days, according to Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle.

Peuvrelle called four witnesses, including Stan and Denise Smart, Kristin’s parents, who testified about their relationship with their daughter and communication leading up to her disappearance.

Denise Smart was asked to recount her family trips to Hawaii, the close ties between Kristin and her two siblings, whether her daughter talked about boyfriends or if she recalled any turmoil that indicated her daughter wanted to run away due a pregnancy or to work as a model -- two possibilities presented by Bob Sanger, attorney for Paul Flores.

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Denise Smart recounted the weekend her daughter disappeared and said she wouldn’t leave without contacting her parents first.

“We were not panicked because it was a long Memorial Day weekend,” Denise Smart said, her voice breaking after stating she expected a call from her daughter.

Both Sanger and Harold Mesick, attorney for Ruben Flores, questioned Denise Smart about whether she knew her daughter referred to herself as “Roxy” and wanted to become a model and move to Thailand or Canada. The mother said her daughter never acquired her driver’s license or had a car.

Stan Smart was called next and firmly denied the idea his daughter had serious plans to run away, including to Thailand, which he called a “pipe dream.” He recounted driving to San Luis Obispo and staying there for at least two months to investigate his daughter’s disappearance.

During that time, he remembered an exhaustive search for his daughter, including consulting with a psychic and an incident in which he went to Arroyo Grande in an unsuccessful attempt to speak with Ruben Flores.

“I could have been [a] tour director for this county,” Stan Smart said. “It was a rather depressing and difficult time for me.”

Two additional witnesses called by the prosecution, Eric Grasso and Kendra Koed, testified to being present at the party and their interactions with Paul Flores and Kristin Smart that night, who they both described as being intoxicated to some degree. 

The hearing resumes for the second day Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Department 5 of Superior Court.