Closing arguments in Kristin Smart murder trial scheduled to begin Monday

Posted at 4:34 PM, September 30, 2022 and last updated 9:48 AM, October 21, 2022

By Kathrene Herndon

SALINAS, Calif. (KSBY) — The final witness took the stand Thursday in the Kristin Smart murder trial.

Paul Flores is charged with Smart’s murder. His father, Ruben Flores, is charged as an accessory, accused of helping hide the body.

Smart and Paul Flores were both students at Cal Poly when she disappeared in May 1996 after an off-campus party.

Kristin Smart (family photo)

Witnesses say Paul was the last person to be seen with her.

While the two men’s defense attorneys rested their case earlier in the week, the prosecution had a chance to call a rebuttal witness.

READ MORE: CA v. Flores & Flores: The Kristin Smart Murder Trial

San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle called DNA analyst Angela Butler to the stand.

She previously testified about soil samples she was given by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office that were reportedly collected from Ruben Flores’ yard in 2021.

This combination photo shows suspects Paul Flores (L) and Ruben Flores (R), who were arrested Tuesday, April 13, 2021, for the murder of Kristin Smart. Flores, the longtime suspect in the 25-year-old disappearance of the California college student was arrested Tuesday, April 13, 2021, on suspicion of murder, and his father was booked in jail as an accessory to the crime. Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Smart on the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. (San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Butler was asked whether her lab has conducted any experiments on older blood evidence. Butler said “yes,” saying they had done HemDirect testing on blood stains from the 70s and 80s, later revealing the samples were on clothing that were stored inside, in a box.

Butler also mentioned that tests she conducted on the soil samples from Ruben’s yard yielded both negative and positive results, but testified that even weak results are considered positives.

She said there can be no false positive results but there can be false negative ones.

Defense attorney Robert Sanger’s cross-examination of Butler went on for quite a while but Butler wasn’t always clear on what she was being asked and also at one point questioned whether Sanger understood how the tests work.

Sanger’s questioning was met with multiple objections by the prosecution, which, at the start, were all sustained by the judge.

Sanger finished his cross-examination by showing charts to the court and questioning Butler on whether she was concerned over what he described as conflicting results.

Butler said she didn’t believe there was cause for concern as to why some results from the same testing jar could be negative and others positive as she would first look at the soil in the sample jars and then decide whether to conduct HemDirect tests on any of the soil.

Paul Flores stands during his murder trial in Monterey County Superior Court in Salinas, Calif., Monday, July 18, 2022. Flores is accused of the murder of Kristin Smart and opening statements began Monday. Smart is still missing, but the man last seen with her at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in 1996 is on trial more than a year after he was arrested on a murder charge along with his father, who is accused of helping hide her body. (Daniel Dreifuss/Monterey County Weekly via AP, Pool)

Butler testified that some of the soil sampled through HemDirect tests came back negative, while others were weak positives and some positive. She said some samples she only conducted DNA testing on but testified that no DNA was found in any of the soil that was sampled.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Harold Mesick, Butler was asked a series of quick questions. He first asked whether the sample tests she did from decades ago were buried underground for more than 10 years. Peuvrelle objected to the question and it was sustained by the judge.

Mesick then asked whether Butler re-tested any of the samples from the 2021 excavation. She replied, “no.”

Mesick also asked whether there was any way for Butler to tell whether the blood was ferret blood or advanced primate blood. Butler replied “no” to both questions.

She was then excused from the stand.

Earlier in the day, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe called one of Paul’s jurors into the courtroom.

The female juror was questioned about a Pinterest page believed to belong to her that the judge said included a board labeled “tips.”

Kristin Smart Scholarship

The board included a variety of subject matters like how to test soil pH without a kit, septic systems and more.

After clarifying with the court that it was in fact her Pinterest account, the juror said she had not logged onto Pinterest during the course of the trial and made the “tips” board around the time she purchased her home in 2018, explaining that the home has a septic system.

She said that she isn’t having an easy time getting things to grow in her yard despite there being a strawberry field nearby and they are having trees removed that are too close to the home.

Paul’s attorney requested to have the juror removed citing not only the Pinterest board but also “emotional issues” he said the juror previously had in court and a statement she reportedly made to one of the bailiffs about evidence.

Judge O’Keefe ultimately ruled to keep the juror on the jury, saying she couldn’t find good cause to remove the juror and believed the juror was truthful and has gone out of her way to not learn things about the case.

Butler’s testimony on Thursday marked the end of evidence being presented in the months-long trial. Opening statements began back on July 18.

Judge O’Keefe said closing arguments for Paul Flores are set to take place Monday starting at 8:30 a.m. Closing arguments for Ruben’s case are set for Tuesday morning. Following the completion of each set of closing arguments, jurors will begin immediately deliberating.

Once both sets of juries have reached a verdict, if they reach one, the verdicts will be read back-to-back with only the jurors for Paul Flores being in the courtroom when his verdict is read and the same for his father’s verdict and jurors.

Jurors were instructed again to not discuss the case with anyone or do any outside research. If or when they reach a verdict, they are also told to not disclose the verdict or discuss the case amongst each other.

Multiple members of Kristin Smart’s family were in court for Thursday’s hearing, along with family friends. Paul’s mother, Susan Flores, was also in attendance.

If convicted, Paul Flores faces a sentence of 25 years to life.

Ruben Flores faces a maximum sentence of three years behind bars.

Paul is being held at the Monterey County Jail during the course of the trial. Ruben posted bail shortly after his arrest and is currently out of custody.

The judge on Friday denied a request from multiple media outlets asking that audio and video be allowed during closing arguments. The judge denied the request and will only allow still photography, which has been the case during the course of the trial.

This story was originally published Sept. 29, 2022 by KSBY in Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, an E.W. Scripps Company.

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