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Kristin Smart case: Sheriff’s detective and retired Cal Poly police detective testify at hearing

Pool photo by David Middlecamp | The Tribune
Paul Flores in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Aug. 3, 2021 during the second day of his preliminary hearing.

On the third day of the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores, the morning resumed with San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office Det. Clint Cole on the stand in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

The topic of discussion was a booking photo taken of Paul Flores when he was arrested on a warrant for driving with a suspended license on May 27, 1996.

The photo held by the Sheriff’s Office cannot be properly enhanced to show Flores’ black eye due to the poor photo quality.

Cole got a negative of the photo from Jim Murphy, the Smart family’s civil attorney.

Robert Sanger, representing Paul Flores, argued the evidence should be reliable and authenticated.

Van Rooyen would not initially admit the booking photo into evidence because he said the prosecution needed proof that the original booking photo was accurate. Van Rooyen said the prosecution could provide witnesses to testify that the photo is how Flores looked on May 27, 1996.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle called a retired Cal Poly campus police detective, Lawrence Kennedy, who initially investigated Smart’s case. Kennedy said he got a call about Smart’s disappearance on Memorial Day, May 27, 1996 and contacted Flores the next day.

Kennedy said during the May 28 interview he noted Flores’ black eye and Flores’ roommate said in an interview that Flores had a black eye at dinner on May 25, 1996.

Van Rooyen accepted the prosecution's photo into evidence.

Kennedy and another campus officer spoke with Flores on May 30, 1996 and an audio recording was played in court.

In the audio recording, Kennedy tells Paul he was the last person seen with Smart and described the situation “about as serious as you can get.”

In the afternoon, Kennedy remained on the stand for the cross examination. Kennedy said he interviewed Javier Carrillo, a friend of Flores who lived in the same dorm as Flores.

According to Kennedy, Carrillo said Flores had a black eye on his right eye May 26, 1996 after Memorial Day weekend, which Flores said he got playing basketball.

In another interview, Kennedy spoke with Derek Tse, Flores’ roommate in Santa Lucia Hall. Tse told Kennedy that when he asked Flores what happened to Smart, Flores told him he walked her close to her dorm room and went home.

Kennedy testified that Tse also said he joked about the case with Flores, asking Flores what he did with Smart. Flores responded to Tse, saying “she’s home with my parents.”

Robert Sanger, representing Paul Flores, talked about Smart’s time at a summer camp in Hawaii. Sanger asked Kennedy about a person identified only as Alyssa who was involved at the same summer camp as Smart in 1995.

Van Rooyen and the attorneys took a sidebar to discuss proceedings for questioning about Kennedy's interview with Alyssa. Van Rooyen said Sanger had to be specific in his questioning.

Back on the record, Sanger – reading from a report - said Alyssa described Smart as “carefree, outgoing, spontaneous and boy-crazy.”

Sanger, continuing to read from a report, said Alyssa said Smart was “totally capable of hiding money and leaving on her own.”

Through its line of questioning, the defense suggested that Smart could have disappeared on purpose and had a history of disappearing.

Alyssa said Smart followed a male counselor she has a crush on to another island in Hawaii and didn’t tell anyone. Alyssa also reportedly told Kennedy that Smart spent $175 on a hotel and bought the man a gold ring.

More information about Alyssa is expected to be released in court Thursday.

Before adjourning Wednesday Van Rooyen discussed housekeeping items including scheduling for the hearing.

According to Peuvrelle, the preliminary is taking longer than they planned. Van Rooyen said the hearing is now expected to last throughout August with one of the prosecution’s witnesses only being available Aug. 30.

The defense filed a motion July 21 to suppress some evidence investigators got through about four dozen searches spanning more than two decades.

Sanger argued since he will refer to affidavits it is not necessary to keep the records sealed from the public. Harold Mesick, representing Ruben Flores, joined the motion and said the information and the prosecution's response “a double-edged sword.”

Van Rooyen said he no longer sees a compelling interest to keep the documents sealed. Those documents were unsealed Wednesday evening.

The preliminary hearing continues Aug. 5 at 9 a.m.

Lauren Walike joined KCBX as its news manager in February 2021. In addition to her KCBX work, Lauren also serves as news director for KCPR-FM, Cal Poly’s student-run radio station, and digital director of Mustang Media Group, Cal Poly’s student-run news organization. She will graduate from Cal Poly’s Honors Program in June 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in journalism with minors in Integrated Marketing Communications and Media Arts, Society and Technology.
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