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Kristin Smart case: Prosecution says preliminary hearing will last until Sept. 3

Paul Flores appears in San Luis Obispo Superior court Monday, Aug. 16 for his preliminary hearing where he is being charged with murder for killing Kristin Smart.

Aug. 20 was the 11th day of the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores who are being charged in relation to Cal Poly student Kristin Smart’s disappearance on May 25, 1996. Paul Flores is being charged with murder and is accused of killing Smart during an attempted or completed rape. Ruben Flores, Paul Flores’ father, is being charged with accessory after the fact.

The following content includes references to sexual misconduct and may not be appropriate for all readers.

Today’s preliminary hearing began with Judge Craig van Rooyen hearing the People’s motion to submit evidence of Paul Flores’ sexual misconduct – including bringing alleged survivors to testify.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger argued that Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle was “twisting” information to sound like a fact.

Judge van Rooyen reminded both sides that the scope of ruling in the preliminary hearing will decide probable cause that Paul Flores committed murder. Van Rooyen said he would not rule on rape or an attempted rape at the preliminary hearing.

Judge van Rooyen denied the People’s motion to admit evidence in relation to Paul Flores’ sexual misconduct including potential home videos, rape fantasy pornography and alleged date rape drugs.

Van Rooyen said the “undue risk of prejudice will outweigh the probative value” and there is a “danger of that type of evidence.” Probative value refers to evidence that serves the purpose of proving something at a trial and van Rooyen said relevance for this type of evidence is limited.

But, van Rooyen said this type of evidence could come out at a trial depending on the scope of the ruling.

Retired Chief District Attorney Investigator Bill Hanley took the stand this afternoon to discuss two interviews he conducted with Paul Flores on May 31, 1996 and June 19, 1996 alongside his partner at the time, Larry Hobson.

Hanley asked Paul Flores about what he was doing on May 24, 1996. Hanley also asked Paul Flores about the walk back to the dorms from the Crandall Way party, which Smart attended.

Paul Flores told Hanley that he left the party around 2:30 a.m. and only remembers saying bye to Cheryl Anderson as she turned right on Grand Avenue and he continued walking on Perimeter Road.

Cheryl Anderson said in her Aug. 3 testimony at the preliminary hearing that Paul Flores asked her for a hug and kiss, both of which she refused, before she parted ways with him and Smart at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Perimeter Road.

Paul Flores also told Hanley that he split from Smart and went to his dorm, Santa Lucia, and that Smart walked off on her own.

In his testimony at the preliminary hearing on Aug. 11 and 12, Tim Davis — who walked with Smart, Anderson and Flores to Cal Poly’s Health Center — said that Smart could not walk by herself and was “stumbling.”

Flores told Hanley he thought Smart was going to meet someone when he said him and Smart parted ways. When Hanley asked, Flores said he thought Smart was dead.

Hanley said during the interview he noticed “discoloration” under Paul Flores’ right eye, which Flores said he got at a pickup basketball game in Arroyo Grande with his friend, Jeromy Moon, and two others.

In Moon’s testimony on Aug. 10 he said he didn't remember Paul Flores getting hit at the basketball game, but clarified that Flores could have gotten hit and he may not have noticed.

At the end of the May 31 interview with Paul Flores, Hanley told him there may be follow-up questions and asked Flores about taking a polygraph test. Flores said to name a time and place and he would be there.

Hanley’s second interview with Flores was June 19, 1996 at the Arroyo Grande Police Department.

Hobson, Hanley’s partner, was getting set up and explaining a polygraph test to Paul Flores, but Flores refused to take the test.

Hanley then entered the room to begin the interview. Peuvrelle wanted to admit a portion of the June 19 interview into evidence for the purpose of the preliminary hearing.

Sanger argued that June 19 had a Miranda Rights issue and was an interrogation and Flores “was not free to go.” Sanger also said it was clear in the interrogation that Flores was a suspect.

A Miranda warning refers to the constitutional requirement that once an individual is detained by the police, there are certain warnings a police officer is required to give to a detainee.

Based on the Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona, a defendant cannot be questioned by police in the context of a custodial interrogation until the defendant is made aware of the right to remain silent, the right to consult with an attorney and have the attorney present during questioning, and the right to have an attorney appointed if indigent.

Peuvrelle said that any reasonable person would think the interview was voluntary. Hanley had told Paul Flores before the May 31 interview that he was being interviewed as a witness. Pauvrelle also asked Hanley if Flores was detained or put in handcuffs in any way during either interview. Hanley said no.

Van Rooyen said he would rule on whether a reasonable person in Flores’ position would believe he was in custody.

While van Rooyen acknowledged that custody status can change as an interrogation goes on, Paul Flores made a statement early on in the interview that he had somewhere to be at 4 p.m. and there was no time in that portion of the interview where an officer said Flores would have to stay or stay past 4 p.m.

Van Rooyen said based on the first 48 minutes of the interview, there was no Miranda violation, but the judge did not make a ruling on the rest of the interview, which lasted more than two hours.

During the few moments of the video of the June 19 interview played in court, Flores can be heard saying “My best guess is she went off with someone,” about where he thought Smart went after he parted ways with her.

During the cross examination, Sanger asked about a meeting Hanley had with the Cal Poly Police Department the afternoon of May 31 before he interviewed Paul Flores. During the meeting Hanley said they talked about the direction of the case and that is when they turned their attention to Paul Flores, since he was the last one seen with Smart.

Sanger also asked Hanley about Paul Flores’ 5 a.m. shower he took the morning of May 25, 1996 – questioning Hanley if someone could have used the bathroom while Paul Flores was in the shower and not known it was him in the shower. Hanley said it was possible.

Defense attorney Harold Mesick, representing Ruben Flores, cross examined Hanley and asked if someone had seen Flores in the shower at 5 a.m. if it would have been an alibi. Hanley said no.

Hanley was excused.

Towards the end of the afternoon session, Sanger wanted a request entered into the record to seize Det. Clint Cole’s cellphone, which according to Sanger may contain communications with witnesses that must be shared with the defense.

Next week’s expected witnesses are Detective Stewart, Detective Cudworth and District Attorney Investigator J.T. Camp.

Peuvrelle said he is optimistic that the hearing will wrap up by Sept. 3. The hearing is expected to continue Monday, Aug. 23.

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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