According to prosecutors, Paul Flores was “lying through his teeth” in Kristin Smart’s disappearance case.
Flores and Smart, both 19 years old at that time, were freshmen Cal Poly students who attended the same party the night she disappeared on May 25, 1996.
Flores is charged with murdering Smart as he attempted to rape her in his dorm room.
During opening statements of Flores’ murder trial, prosecutors played a video of Flores stumbling over questions from police detectives inside an interrogation room. The interrogation was recorded days after Smart’s friends alerted the police of her disappearance.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle told the jury Flores said he promised another student, Cheryl Anderson, that he would make sure Smart made it back to her dorm room in Muir Hall. According to the party-goers, Smart could not walk or stand on her own because of something she drank at the party.
Flores attempted to kiss Anderson before she walked away around 2:30 a.m. She refused his advances because she was “creeped out,” Peuvrelle said.
However, when Anderson looked back one last time at Flores and Smart, she saw that he was leading Smart towards Santa Lucia Hall, his dorm, instead of Muir Hall.
“She made a decision that she’s regretted ever since. She was the last person other than Paul Flores to see Kristin alive. She saw Paul taking Kristin toward his dorm to the left,” the prosecutor said. Flores’ roommate was out of town that weekend, and “Paul knew he had three full days in that room (alone),” Peuvrelle told the jury.
“What happened in the privacy of his room that night?” Peuvrelle asked the jury.
Flores made one phone call over the weekend of Smart’s disappearance. According to the prosecutors, he called his father at 9:47 a.m. on Sunday, May 26, 1996.
Flores’ father is now charged with helping cover up the homicide by burying Smart’s body in his home’s backyard.
Flores’ story changed in an interrogation with campus police on May 28, 1996. First, he told detectives that Smart was having difficulty walking on her own, and later on told detectives that Smart was walking just fine and returned to her dorm as he returned to his.
“The detective noticed was Paul was nervous and his heart was beating out of his chest. He claimed he didn’t even know her name,” Peuvrelle said.
Flores allegedly told campus police, “I did not find Kristin attractive. Not at all. I had zero interest in her,” according to prosecutors.
“Paul Flores was lying through his teeth to law enforcement,” Peuvrelle told the jury.
Flores told campus police he never talked to Smart at the house party, but multiple witnesses saw them talking together next to a tiki bar inside the house.
Prosecutors said Smart began falling down shortly after she was seen with Flores. Witnesses claim she didn’t smell like alcohol but quickly became “incapacitated.”
Peuvrelle said that one party-goer, Tim Davis, told Smart she could not spend the night on the house’s front lawn because it was too cold. He was helping her get up to her feet when Flores suddenly appeared “out from the darkness.”
Paul Flores then told Davis and Anderson, “Don’t worry I got her, I’ll take her from here,”
One of Kristin’s closest college friends, Steve Fleming, noticed that Paul Flores would linger around Smart’s dorm hall even though he didn’t live there. “He noticed Paul Flores would randomly walk through the halls of Muir Dorm. Paul would try to get Kristin’s attention and she was too nice to tell him off. She was too kind-hearted. 1996 was before the #MeToo movement,” Peuvrelle told the jury.
In June 1996, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office brought in 4 cadaver dogs to sniff dorms on campus. The canines were trained and certified to sniff out human remains. All 4 dogs, including one considered the best, separately signaled an alert indicating human remains odors in Flores’ room.
The dogs’ handler said one dog “went screaming down the hallway, made a U-turn, and stopped right in front of (Flores’) dorm room,” the prosecutor said.
Once the dogs were inside the room, they alerted to a corner of Flores’ bed where a mattress cover had a blood stain.
Smart’s body was never found, and despite being a prime suspect in her murder, law enforcement did not arrest Flores until 2021.