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Denise Smart called as first witness in preliminary hearing of Paul, Ruben Flores

Four people were called to testify Monday
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Posted at 8:52 AM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 11:52:03-04

UPDATE (5:53 p.m.) – Two more witnesses were called to the stand Monday to close out day one of the preliminary hearing of Paul and Ruben Flores.

Eric Grasso was a Cal Poly student in 1996 who said he attended a party on Crandall Way in San Luis Obispo that Kristin Smart attended the night she disappeared.

Kendra Koed, a Cuesta College student at the time, said she also attended the party.

Both identified Paul in court.

Grasso described Paul as being “a little standoffish, looking around the back of the room," but adds that he never spoke directly to Paul that night.

Grasso says he stepped into a conversation Paul was having with some of his female friends because he said they looked uncomfortable. However, Grasso also said that wasn’t unusual for him to do whenever his friends were talking to someone they did not know.

Koed had a different interaction with Paul.

She says while at the party, she was going around asking people for gum. She testified that Paul said he had some and they began kissing before someone at the party yelled for them to “get a room.”

Becoming embarrassed, Koed says she followed Paul out to the side of the house toward a backyard because he told her he had gum in his car.

The former Cuesta College student said Paul tried to make another move on her but she pushed him away and left.

Later on at the party, Koed says she saw Kristin fall in the hallway with Paul standing over her.

Koed testified that she pulled Kristin outside and told her to stay away from Paul because she was concerned for her wellbeing, describing Kristin as being “highly intoxicated” and unable to care for herself.

Koed added that later that night, she saw Kristin in the driveway of a nearby home and offered to walk her home, but Kristin declined saying she was waiting for someone.

A few weeks later, Koed says she called Cal Poly police after seeing information on Kristin’s disappearance on the news. She says it was at that time she learned her name was Kristin because at the party, she had introduced herself as “Roxy.”

Koed says she was not interviewed by police until 2014, about 18 years after Kristin went missing.

At the end of the hearing late Monday afternoon, a discussion regarding unsealing documents was brought up, but no final decisions were made.

The hearing will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

UPDATE (3:10 p.m.) - Stan Smart was the second person called to the stand on Monday. He testified that he was close with his daughter and spent more than two months looking for her. He described the Cal Poly Police Department as "ill-equipped" to handle a missing person or homicide case.

He says Kristin did mention to him she wanted to go back to Thailand, but he testified that he assumed that was for school.

Stan says while searching for his daughter and following up on tips, he heard about Paul Flores's possible involvement and being the last person to be seen with his daughter.

Stan testified that he went to Ruben Flores's Arroyo Grande home to talk but when he drove up, Stan says Ruben came out of the house yelling, "You need to get out of here or someone could get shot."

Stan then pointed at Ruben in court.

When questioning Stan Smart, Paul Flores’ attorney Bob Sanger asked him about other possible suspects he was made aware of during his search of Kristin.

Sanger also asked about Scott Peterson because there was a witness who said Scott and Lacey Peterson were at that same party Paul and Kristin were at.


UPDATE (3:09 p.m.) - It does not appear that Susan Flores will be testifying during the preliminary hearing involving her son and former husband. Following an afternoon break Monday, Judge Craig van Rooyen heard a motion submitted by Jeffry Radding, the attorney for Susan Flores. The motion involved a request that his client not be called to testify.

The prosecution submitted some questions they intended to ask Susan in advance and under oath, Susan said she planned to plead the Fifth.


(12:27 p.m.) -After multiple delays, the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores got underway Monday morning in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.

The hearing for the father and son arrested in April in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart is expected to last three weeks.

The first witness called by the prosecution Monday was Kristin’s mother, Denise Smart.

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle started off by asking Denise basic questions about herself, including whether she was married, to whom she was married, and how many children she has and their ages.

Three photos were then submitted into evidence.

Denise began crying when she looked at the first photo showing the Smart family, including Denise, her husband Stan and three children, in Hawaii in January of 1995, about a year-and-a-half before Kristin went missing at the age of 19 from the Cal Poly campus.

The second photo was a picture of Kristin with blonde hair in 1995 and the third a photo of her on spring break in 1996 with her hair dyed brown.

Peuvrelle asked Denise about her relationship with her daughter.

“Kristin felt like a gift to our family,” Denise replied, describing Kristin as energetic and the best hugger.

Denise told the court that Kristin enrolled at Cal Poly in 1995 and when asked about how often the two communicated, Denise said usually twice a week but at least once a week and always on Sundays.

Denise testified that her daughter wasn’t very happy at Cal Poly but the family and Kristin had planned for her to finish out the school year.

She said the last time she saw her daughter in person was spring break of 1996 when the Smart family came to visit Kristin at Cal Poly.

Peuvrelle went on to ask Denise about the lives of her other two children, Matt and Lindsey. Were they married and was Kristin there for the weddings? Did they have children and was Kristin there for that? Denise replied “no” to everything.

Appearing to prove to the court that something happened to Kristin and she would not have just disappeared, Peuvrelle went on to question Denise about how often they communicated when Kristin went away on trips.

For international trips, Denise said they communicated through letters and when Kristin was in Hawaii, they communicated by phone.

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Ruben Flores in court Aug. 2

Denise said the last time she spoke with her daughter, Kristin was concerned about getting an incomplete in one of her classes because her Scantron test form had been lost.

That Friday, Denise testified that Kristin left a voicemail saying she had good news and would call her mom on Sunday, but the call never came.

Denise said they did not panic due to it being Memorial Day weekend, adding they thought they’d hear from their daughter after the holiday.

Peuvrelle then asked what actions the family took to help find Kristin.

Denise said her husband drove down from northern California to look for their daughter and spent most of the summer of 1996 in San Luis Obispo.

She testified that the first thing she did was contact Cal Poly and the office of the university's president but was told they did not know anything about her daughter’s disappearance.

Denise said she then called university police and was told they had no info.

She then reportedly turned to the FBI in Los Angeles and was put in touch with its sexual assault task force.

Denise says the task force reached out to Cal Poly and was told everything was “under control” and the FBI’s help was not needed.

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Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle

Kristin’s case has been reported internationally. Peuvrelle asked Denise whether, had Kristin gone somewhere, she thought her daughter would have come home if she had seen news coverage of her own disappearance. “Yes,” Denise replied.

While appearing to further refute claims that Kristin disappeared on her own, Denise, when asked about Kristin's financial status, said Kristin had a checking account in which $100 deposits were made, although she couldn’t specify how often money was put into the account. Aside from that, the only income her daughter had was money she earned as a lifeguard.

Did she have a driver license, Peuvrelle asked Denise. “No,” she replied, calling it a goal that never happened.

During Denise’s testimony, Paul Flores’s attorney, Robert Sanger, continually objected for relevance and hearsay.

After a short break, the court reconvened for cross examination at around 11:30 a.m.

At that time, Sanger asked Denise if she knew Kristin was applying to modeling jobs and telling people her name was “Roxy.” Denise replied, “no.”

Denise also denied knowing much, if anything, prior to last month about her daughter having boyfriends while at college.

When questioned by Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores’s attorney, Denise was asked whether she knew Kristin was missing for some time while working as a lifeguard in Hawaii. Denise again said she did not.

The defense said it plans to call Denise back to the stand for more questioning at a later date.

Stan Smart was the second person called to the stand during Monday's hearing.

The judge has denied audio recording of the hearing and the use of electronic devices in the courtroom.

This story will be updated throughout the day as information comes in.

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Judge Craig van Rooyen