A second K-9 handler recalled in court on Monday the alerts her cadaver dog gave while searching Paul Flores' Santa Lucia Hall dorm room on the afternoon of June 29, 1996.
Torrey, a boxer, was brought in to the building to independently confirm the search results of three previous dogs that morning, according to Gail LaRoque, who has since retired from handling K-9s.
LaRoque recalled entering the building and unleashing Torrey, telling her “search bones,” which was the dog’s command.
Torrey ran down the hallway and attempted to stop, sliding past one room before making a U-turn, and alerting on room 128, where Flores stayed during his freshman year of college.
A retired police detective took the witness stand Monday and provided details on the FBI’s use of a jail informant to investigate Paul Flores’ alleged role in the May 1996 disappearance of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.
Flores, 44, of San Pedro is charged with the murder of Kristin Smart, a 19-year-old Cal Poly student who went missing on May 25, 1996. His father, 80-year-old Ruben Flores, is charged with accessory to murder after the fact and accused of hiding her body.
Smart was last seen with Paul Flores at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue, just steps away from their dorms, according to an earlier witness, Cheryl Manzer.
After that, she was never seen again. She was declared legally dead in 2002 and her body has never been recovered.
In April, nearly 25 years after Smart went missing, Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested and charged. Both have pleaded not guilty.
On the witness stand, LaRoque recalled the day she drove to San Luis Obispo for the search. She arrived with K-9 handler Adela Morris, who testified earlier in the preliminary hearing and whose two cadaver dogs, Cholla and Cirque, made alerts to the same room.
LaRoque testified to knowing that Smart had been missing, but knew no other details about the case.
Like Cholla and Cirque, Torrey was certified in human remains detection by the California Rescue Dog Association and had about 200 searches in her career.
“Please do not tell me anything,” LaRoque recalled telling police investigators on the scene, because she needed Torrey to work independently.
It was about 1:30 p.m. when Torrey was called to search. After alerting to room 128, she entered the room and sniffed the air, rotated her head and repeatedly searched the left side of the room, where Paul Flores stayed.
Torrey “methodically” searched the left corner of the room, where she picked up a trash can and brought it to her handler, according to LaRoque.
When alerting, the dog was trained to grab a bringsel, which is a leather, cigar-shaped object handlers use to train their dogs for alerts. LaRoque said the trash can was as good as an alert.
Next, Torrey began sniffing the edge of the bed frame and LaRoque noted her dog began to whine in “excitement and frustration,” indicating Torrey had a scent but kept searching for the source.
“Part of being a handler, you learn your dog’s behavior and what it means,” LaRoque said.
Later, police detectives placed the trash can in the hallway, along with two identical cans, and Torrey alerted to the same can, according to LaRoque.
Attorney Sarah Sanger, who represents Paul Flores, asked LaRoque if Torrey’s search could have been skewed by contamination, such as picking up a scent of human decomposition from a separate crime scene.
LaRoque said that “certainly” could occur.
Attorney Harold Mesick, who represents Ruben Flores, asked whether Torrey could possibly follow the scent of a corpse from the room.
LaRoque did not offer a yes or no answer, although she said it was possible.
The preliminary hearing continues Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Department 5 of Superior Court.