The prosecutor in the Kristin Smart murder trial said Paul Flores is “guilty as sin” as he presented his closing arguments to the jury on Monday.
Closing statements mark the beginning of the end of the lengthy trial for a crime alleged to have occurred 26 years ago. Flores is accused of killing Smart after an off-campus Cal Poly party on May 26, 1996.
He has been on trial in Salinas for more than three months with his father, Ruben Flores, who is accused of helping his son hide Smart’s body. The fate of the two men will be decided by two separate juries.
Paul Flores is on trial for felony murder in the commission of a rape — a first-degree offense, even if the victim’s death during the rape was negligent or accidental.
Jurors must come to the same conclusion to convict him of this offense, or they must agree on a different verdict, which can be premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder in the commission of an attempted rape, second-degree murder or an acquittal.
Earlier Monday, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe instructed that jurors must first decide if Paul Flores raped the two women who testified in court about their alleged assaults before they consider their testimony as evidence.
“You must decide what the facts are. It’s up to you and you alone,” O’Keefe told Paul Flores’ jurors Monday.
San Luis Obispo County public officials, including District Attorney Dan Dow and Sheriff Ian Parkinson, were present in the courtroom with media outlets and members of the public. Friends and family of the Smart family filled the courtroom and overflow room, and Susan Flores, mother of Paul Flores and ex-wife of Ruben Flores, was in also in attendance with some friends or family.
Paul Flores is ‘Guilty as Sin,’ Prosecutor Says
In his closing arguments, San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle recapped all the evidence he presented in the case he built against Paul Flores.
“It’s been a long trial, it’s been 11 Sundays since I’ve given my opening statement,” he told the jury. “It’s been 1,370 Sundays since Stan and Denise Smart waited for that phone call — the phone call that would never come.”
It’s also been 1,370 Sundays the grieving parents have been searching for their daughter, Peuvrelle added, “but you know where she was all along. She was under their deck,” he said, pointing at the Flores men.
“The community really moved heaven and earth to find her, but Ruben and Paul Flores? They moved dirt under their deck to try to hide her,” he said. Peuvrelle noted there were no cameras in Paul Flores’ dorm — it was 1996, he said. But there are also no witnesses to crimes committed in the bedroom, “just like there’s no witnesses for what happened to Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe,” he said, referring to the two women who testified that they were raped by Paul Flores.
“Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe tell us what Kristin could not — that she was raped,” Peuvrelle said. “Or that Paul Flores tried to rape her. And they speak for Kristin.” He said the lies Paul Flores told investigators time and time again about his black eye and about other things that happened that night prove that “Paul Flores is guilty as sin.”
“Justice delayed does not have to be justice denied. You now know the truth of what happened,” he told jurors.
Prosecutor Lays Out Crandall Way Party
Peuvrelle told the jury that Flores participated in a “multi-month hunt” of Smart, noting that several of Smart’s friends at the time of her disappearance testified Flores would hang around her dorm, stare at her, seek her out and try to interact with her.
He referred to Margarita Campos’ testimony, who said Smart was too nice to “tell him off” and never reciprocated his efforts. “What we would see as kindness, he would see as someone being a ‘d–k tease’,” Peuvrelle said, referring to Jennifer Hudson’s testimony that Paul Flores admitted to her that he killed Smart.
“And in his predatory, vile mind, that’s what he saw (Smart) as.” According to witness testimony, Flores wasn’t seen in Muir Hall, Smart’s dorm, after her disappearance. He had no reason to go back because “his hunt was over,” Peuvrelle said.
On the evening of May 26, 1996, around 10:30 p.m., Margarita Campos testified she dropped Smart off sober at a party on Crandall Way. At that same party before Smart arrived, Kendra Koed testified Paul Flores forced himself on her while trying to separate her from her group of friends.
“Do you see a pattern?” Peuvrelle asked during his closing arguments. “That tells you about his mindset that night, that he was going to do whatever he can to hunt that night.” Koed even said she told Smart to stay away from Paul Flores that evening, she said. Then sometime between 10:30 p.m. and 12 a.m., multiple witnesses saw Paul Flores and Smart speaking by the bar, and the two fell to the ground.
This negates Paul Flores’ claim to law enforcement that the two did not interact much at the party, Peuvrelle said. Peuvrelle reviewed how party attendee Trevor Boelter testified that Smart kissed him twice, once before she was at the bar with Paul Flores and once after. Boelter did not smell alcohol either time, he said. “And then, after that, Paul Flores gets his chance,” Peuvrelle said. Around midnight — 90 minutes after Smart arrived at the party — Smart passed out in the neighbor’s lawn, face down, and too intoxicated to consent to sexual intercourse, Peuvrelle said.
Tim Davis and Cheryl Anderson, two people who helped walk Smart home, testified that Paul Flores “inserted” himself into the entourage walking Smart home. Davis left early on, and before Anderson left from the walk she said Paul Flores promised to get Smart home safe. “A promise that he breaks,” Peuvrelle said.
Prosecutor: Under Ruben Flores’ Deck is ‘Perfect Spot’ To Hide a Body
The prosecution’s theory is that after Paul Flores killed Smart, he called his father, Ruben Flores, to help move Smart’s body out of his dorm and bury her body under his father’s deck — “the perfect hiding spot,” Peuvrelle called it — before moving her after a search warrant was carried out at the home.
Peuvrelle pointed out that the four cadaver dogs that searched Paul Flores’ dorm building all entered at different locations and all alerted to the same location: his dorm room. Three of them alerted to “the scent of human death” on the mattress and the fourth could not pinpoint a location on the bed frame because the mattress had been removed, the prosecution claimed.
Then, ground penetrating radar located a soil anomaly under the Flores family home’s deck that was 6 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet deep — the size of a human body, particularly Smart’s body, who stood 6 feet and 1 inch tall, Peuvrelle said.
“It just happened to be in the perfect hiding spot for a human body, and just happened to have staining consistent with a decaying human body, and just happens to be the approximate length of a human body,” Peuvrelle said. Then, the soil samples taken from the stain tested positive for human blood, and also contained fibers that were the same colors as the clothing Smart was wearing when she disappeared — red shoes, black shorts and a gray top, Peuvrelle said.
A search warrant was carried out at Ruben Flores’ home on Feb. 5, 2020. Then around a week later, Jamilyn Holman, Ruben Flores’ neighbor, saw a cargo trailer backed into the yard with a fence removed. An area of that trailer later reacted to a test that indicates human blood is present, or reacts with cleaning products like bleach, Peuvrelle said. “None of rest of trailer was cleaned. So why clean just that spot?” Peuvrelle said. “We know why: That’s how they got Kristin out.”
‘Predators Are Gonna Prey,’ Prosecutor Tells Jurors
Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe’s testimonies only have to prove it is more likely than not that Paul Flores raped them — their assaults do not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for jurors to consider them as evidence, the prosecution said.
“If you find that just one of the two rapes occurred, you can conclude Paul Flores was disposed or inclined to commit sexual offenses generally,” Peuvrelle told the jury. “You can further conclude Paul Flores was likely to commit or did commit rape or attempted rape in this case.”
Peuvrelle said the alleged rapes Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe described are all too similar: Paul Flores isolates the woman, gives them a drink and “we all know what happened next.”
“He drugged those women,” Peuvrelle said. “He went into his kitchen, spiked their drinks then raped them.” Both Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe testified Paul Flores used a red ball gag to rape them — a detail that can be corroborated by a screenshot of a homemade video of a woman on Paul Flores’ bed, with her eyes closed and a red ball gag lodged in her mouth.
The photo is “critical corroboration between two women who don’t know each other,” Peuvrelle said during closing arguments.
Smart was incapacitated that night, unable to consent for herself, the prosecution said. Boelter testified he had been drugged in 2012, and Smart’s behavior the night she disappeared was similar to his own.
“Predators are gonna prey,” Peuvrelle said. “What I’m asking from you is accountability.”
The prosecution ended its closing arguments early Tuesday afternoon. Flores’ defense attorney Robert Sanger began closing arguments shortly after.
Click here to read a news article about the Sanger’s closing arguments in the trial.
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