Jurors handling the California trial for Paul and Ruben Flores – the father and son accused in the disappearance and death of Kristin Smart – heard from some of the people who were most familiar with the home and property where investigators believe the college student’s remains were temporarily buried.
Prosecutors on Monday called to the stand two people who lived in close proximity to Ruben Flores and his home – including a tenant who rented space inside the Arroyo Grande, California, house for a decade, as well as the man who built the home in the early 1990s, according to reports from inside the courtroom.
Paul Flores, now 45, has been charged with Smart’s murder. Ruben Flores, his 81-year-old father, was charged with acting as an accessory after the fact. Smart was a 19-year-old college freshman at California Polytechnic State University in 1996 when she was last seen with the younger Flores.
Prosecutors have said they believe Flores killed Smart in his dorm room while he tried to rape her when they were both freshmen. A massive search ensued.
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They allege Ruben Flores helped his son bury Smart’s body under the deck of his Arroyo Grande home – and then later removed and relocated her remains when law enforcement returned decades later.
In March 2021, archeologists enlisted by police discovered a patch of disturbed soil roughly the size of the casket, and the presence of what investigators determined to be human blood, according to prosecutors.
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The trial proceedings are not being televised or live-streamed, pursuant to a judge’s ruling. A handful of journalists — including the person behind the “Your Own Backyard” (YOB) Podcast that is credited with renewing interest in the case — have been reporting from inside the courtroom amid the media limitations.
On Monday, jurors first heard from a contractor identified only as Ed, who said he built Ruben Flores’ Tally Ho Road home, and completed the construction in August 1991, according to tweets from the YOB Podcast.
Ed testified that he and his workers did not encounter any buried bodies while working on the property, and said they would have stopped construction and notified authorities if they had found anything of the sort.
He said no one from his crew suffered any injuries, but acknowledged that if someone had cut their finger or suffered a similarly minor injury, he might not have known about it, according to the report.
Ed also reportedly said the house was built on what had once been an avocado orchard.
When a juror asked the height of the crawlspace under the house, Ed estimated, “perhaps seven feet,” noting that he had no issues standing in the area despite his height of 6-foot-2, according to the report.
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Another juror asked how deep he dug before hitting rock, to which he responded: “It was about eight feet.”
Jurors later head testimony from a man identified as David, who rented a portion of Ruben Flores’ home for 10 years, according to the report.
David said he lived in a room with a door that led out to the house’s deck.
When asked if he had heard “anything about Kristin Smart,” he responded: “I’d heard the name,” according to the report.
He testified about instances in which Ruben Flores would go out of his way to avoid the area underneath the house, or the deck, and asked David to do so as well.
“There was a leak under the kitchen sink,” he recalled, according to the report. “The plumber said he needed to go underneath the house to work on it, and Ruben told him to just forget it.”
He said he never saw anyone other than Ruben Flores venture under the deck.
District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle asked David about a time when he was “walking down the hallway and heard Ruben Flores having a telephone conversation referencing Kristin Smart.”
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“It could have been Ruben,” David reportedly responded. “It could have been another person.”
Kristin Smart went missing on May 25, 1996 while attending California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and has not been heard from since. Axel Koester/Sygma via Getty Images
He added: “I heard ‘Kristin’, and then I heard ‘a f—— slut’. That’s all I heard. It could have been any Kristin.”
Peuvrelle pointed David to a transcript from his interview with police, in which he allegedly told investigators: “Ruben always called Kristin a ‘dirty slut,’” according to the report. He noted that he did not recall making the statement, and prosecutors later added that the interview was audio recorded.
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Kristin Smart went missing on May 25, 1996 while attending California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and has not been heard from since. Photo by Axel Koester/Sygma via Getty Images
Prosecutors also called to the stand San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Detective Matt Terrell, who was involved in the search warrant at Ruben Flores’ home on Feb. 5, 2020.
According to the report, Terrell recalled finding “newspaper articles, letters. Some other items” related to Kristin Smart. Ruben Flores allegedly stored some items in a drawer in his bedroom, including a local news article about Smart and a poster for a school essay contest about the missing college student.
Defense attorneys argued that the flyers were distributed and “used aggressively towards Mr. Flores,” and that the elder Flores “received thousands of pieces of hate mail,” according to the report.
A woman who lived next-door to Ruben Flores, Jamilyn, testified about “unusual activity” at Flores’ home just days after police executed the search warrant there.
Jamilyn described hearing “a lot of loud yelling” on Feb. 9, 2020, and seeing two trailers, a white van and a red SUV – which she said looked like the one that Susan Flores, Paul’s mother, drove, according to the report. She recalled seeing Ruben Flores, Susan Flores and Susan’s significant other in the driveway.
She recalled seeing “a cargo trailer backed up to the garage, and the garage open, which I thought was unusual.”
Jamilyn later added: “After the sun went down, I noticed that the cargo trailer and the red SUV had been pulled alongside the house.”
The woman reportedly said Susan Flores’ presence at the home was unusual until around January and February 2020.
She acknowledged that she did not tell investigators about the unusual activity at the home until over a year later, after she notified media about it.
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Smart was a student at Cal Poly’s San Luis Obispo campus in 1996 when she was allegedly heavily intoxicated, with Paul Flores, after an off-campus party on Crandall Way. She was walked back from the party by three people — two people, a man and woman, and Flores. The others slowly peeled off after Flores allegedly insisted multiple times that he could get Smart home safely.
She has been missing ever since.
Dual juries were selected from a pool of more than 1,500 Monterey County residents to oversee each case separately but simultaneously. The trial is expected to last months.