Kristin Smart case: Defense says SLO Sheriff’s Department tried to pressure Paul Flores
Retired San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Detective Henry Stewart testified this morning on the 12th day of the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores.
Paul and Ruben Flores 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.
Stewart testified that he and another detective were assigned to the Smart case on June 26, 1996.
In a cross examination by defense attorney Robert Sanger, representing Paul Flores, Stewart said he interviewed various witnesses in the case. Those witnesses include Crystal Calvin, Smart’s roomate; Tim Davis, who walked Smart part of the way home from the Crandall Way party; Jana Schrock, who slept in Smart’s dorm room the night she disappeared; and Ted Munley, who stayed in Smart’s dorm with Schrock.
In July 1996, Stewart obtained and executed a search warrant for Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home where Paul was living at the time. He was not asked about what he found, if anything, during the search.
Later in July 2002, Paul Flores was arrested by local law enforcement on a probation violation in Costa Mesa. Stewart was no longer a lead detective on the Smart case, but testified this was one of the last things he did on the Smart case. Stewart was in Costa Mesa interviewing witnesses and saw Paul Flores near a bar he was known to frequent.
Stewart said when Paul Flores got out of a cab with two other friends, he saw the two investigators and “took off running.” Stewart said the detectives didn’t chase him and filed a probation violation report, and Paul Flores was taken to the Santa Barbara County Jail.
Stewart said investigators “planted an agent” in the jail to befriend Paul Flores to get a confession or more information from him. Stewart said he transported the agent to the Santa Barbara County Jail, but said he did not have any contact with that person after that.
Stewart also said that he and another detective tried to interview Paul Flores at the Santa Barbara County Jail in case he made some sort of statement about the case. But, Flores refused to talk and asked for his lawyer.
Sanger said Paul Flores has said the “same thing” for 25 years that he last saw Smart when the two parted ways near Perimeter Road and Flores walked to his dorm and said Smart headed in the direction of hers.
Sanger said the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department tried to pressure Paul Flores over 25 years.
“The whole time they knew they didn’t have a case,” Sanger said, referencing the prosecution’s position and various search warrant affidavits that are still under seal.
Sanger also asked Stewart about a report he had written from an interview with a witness, Tim Davis, in which he said he saw Smart lying on the grass after the Crandall Way party and helped her up.
According to the report, Sanger said Davis told Stewart he saw Flores walk by with a group of fraternity members and Flores offered to help walk Smart home. Sanger pointed out how this was different from Davis’ testimony on Aug. 11 and 12 when he said Flores came out of the “darkness” from the side of the Crandall Way house.
Many of the witnesses on the stand have stressed the fact that it has been more than 25 years since Smart’s disappearance and they can’t remember exactly what happened. Some witnesses have referenced reports or statements they gave to law enforcement at the time to refresh their memory on the stand.
Defense attorney Harold Mesick, representing Ruben Flores, asked Stewart about his testimony about the undercover agent going on a fishing trip with Paul Flores after he got out of custody.
It was not clear whether this person was undercover law enforcement or a civilian informant.
Stewart was excused and subject to recall. The court adjourned early and is expected to resume on Wednesday, Aug. 25.