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'Why did I let her go by herself?' Friend of Kristin Smart testifies during Flores preliminary hearing

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Posted at 12:10 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 15:10:34-04

A friend of Kristin Smart, who lived in the same Cal Poly dorm as she did, began testifying late Thursday morning during the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores. The two men are charged in connection with Smart's disappearance in 1996.

Margarita Campos

Margarita Campos, who lived next to Kristin Smart in Muir Hall, is the tenth witness to be called to the stand.

On Thursday, she testified that she remembers meeting Kristin in late December of 1995 or early January of 1996 and became closer with Kristin about three months before her disappearance.

On the evening of May 24, 1996, Campos says she was hanging out with Kristin in her room, trying to decide what to do that night.

She describes the campus as being “pretty quiet” because a lot of students were gone for Memorial Day weekend.

Campos told the court that some girls down the hall invited her and Kristin to a get-together at a house off-campus. Campos and Kristin did not have cars, so Campos says they went with the other girls in a truck. She said the gathering was at a small house in a residential neighborhood, adding that they went in the early evening.

Campos says after that, she and Kristin were dropped off on the corner of Foothill and California boulevards because the two wanted to do their own thing and "weren't ready to go back to the dorms."

Peuvrelle asks what Kristin was wearing that night and Campos describes her friend's outfit as short black Roxy board shorts, a gray crop top and red sneakers with no socks. Campos says Kristin’s hair was brown at the time.

Campos goes on to say she and Kristin were walking that night when they decided to split up.

Campos says she was tired and needed to go to the bathroom and wanted to go back to the dorms, but Kristin wanted to stay out. Campos said Kristin kept saying "just come with me" and “don't go.”

Campos testifies that she vividly remembers having this conversation with Kristin in a parking lot next to a dumpster because she “saw Kristin’s shadow with her arms crossed” as if she was disappointed.

Ultimately, Campos says she decided to go back to the dorms and gave Kristin her key because the main entrance to their dorm locked at midnight.

Campos says she turned around and saw Kristin walking to turn onto Crandall Way, telling the court, “I've replayed in my head over and over, like, why did I let her go by herself?”

Peuvrelle asks if she or Kristin had any more alcohol and Campos said no and that Kristin was “100% sober" by that time.

She says this was around 10:30 or 11 p.m. and the last time she saw Kristin.

Court then recessed for an afternoon break before coming back for further testimony at 1:30 p.m.

In the afternoon, Peuvrelle asked Campos if she ever saw Paul Flores on campus and she said she had. He also asked if Paul ever stared at her and Campos responds, "He stared at everyone."

Campos went on to testify that on Saturday, May 25, she knocked on Kristin's door several times but it wasn't until Kristin's roommate, Crystal Calvin, came home later that afternoon that they realized she wasn't there.

Campos noted that Kristin's dorm looked the same way they left it, saying, "Nothing had moved from the night before."

She said Sunday was "when things started getting surreal." She and other dormmates "decided it was not normal, not like Kristin to not say anything to anyone."

Campos says she and a few other girls from the dorm decided to report Kristin missing on Sunday.

Campos expressed strong criticism toward how Cal Poly Police handled the case. During cross-examination, she says she told Det. Clint Cole in 2017 that the initial university investigations were "demoralizing" and "instilled shame" in her for being friends with Kristin. She said they "highlighted [Kristin's] promiscuity." She added her "biggest concern was that campus police wasn't taking it seriously."

Campos also said that information and evidence was removed by the university because Paul's dorm room was cleaned before investigators looked through it.

Sanger asked Campos about the phone call on 5/29/96 around 3 a.m. she reported to Det. Kennedy. Campos says she would often get prank calls and wanted to tell detectives of every observation at the time to help with finding Kristin but says she "never said the phone calls were Kristin" in court Thursday.

Sanger follows up on a report that Campos spotted a shoe print outside her window the day after Kristin went missing. Campos didn't believe that police investigated it.

Campos seemed to be very confident in her answers and to have the sharpest memory of the witnesses who have testified so far, even challenging police reports and claiming police didn't accurately take note of what she initially told them. She does concur with answers given to the FBI in 1999 including that Kristin "acted out to get attention" but says she doesn't specifically remember getting interviewed by an FBI agent.

Campos says she reached out to Sheriff Ian Parkinson in 2017 to set up an interview with Det. Cole to share her perspective of what happened, saying she felt there was a "better team" on the case.

Detective Clint Cole

The prosecution then called Det. Clint Cole back to the stand to discuss a recent interview with Crystal Calvin on June 16, 2021.

Calvin reportedly told Det. Cole that Kristin did not leave for more than 24 hours without her red backpack and toiletries which were still in their dorm room on May 25. She told the detective she was concerned even though previous testimonies described Kristin and her roommate as not getting along.

During cross-examination, Sanger accuses Det. Cole of persuading witnesses to not talk to the defense's investigator but Det. Cole denies it multiple times.

Det. Cole said he "kept an open mind" when he took over the case and "assumed Paul Flores was not a suspect" when he reviewed the case files.

Sanger then questions if Det. Cole re-interviewed other potential suspects such as Ted Munley, a peeping Tom by the name of "Yanish", Sha Whitted who reportedly lit Kristin's shoes on fire and left them on her doorstep with a mean note, Shahn Farrell, and Brian Sawicki. Det. Cole said some were not considered suspects or persons of interest and others he did not follow up on.

Sanger brings up the possibility of Scott Peterson being a potential suspect and Det. Cole said he had no knowledge or evidence of Peterson being at the Crandall party.

Towards the end of the evening, Sanger said he was "making arrangements for Scott Peterson" but did not elaborate on what that meant. During the preliminary hearing, the defense can call witnesses after the prosecution is done calling theirs, however, it is unclear if that is what Sanger plans to do with Peterson.

Court is in recess until Monday when the preliminary hearing will pick up again.

Lawrence Kennedy

Testimony began just after 9 a.m. Thursday.

Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, mentioned that the district attorney’s office found more than 500 pages of original notes taken from Cal Poly police investigator Lawrence Kennedy, who served as an investigator from 1985-2003 and investigated Smart’s disappearance.

Sanger questioned the old-fashioned numberings used on the notes. Prosecutor Chris Peuvrelle said the DA’s office is working through years of filing systems that he says have changed, adding they are working to get everything turned over for discovery.

Following that discussion, Kennedy, who first testified Wednesday, took to the stand again so cross-examination could resume.

Kennedy told the court he has not had a chance to review his original notes and said he is not sure why they are Bates stamped, the numbering system Sanger questioned above.

Sanger then asks Kennedy about a statement from Margarita Campos, who was a friend of Kristin’s and lived in the same dorm.

In the statement taken by Kennedy, Campos reportedly tells him she received a call in her dorm room on May 29, 1996, between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. from a female caller who mumbled something.

Two other calls followed. Campos stated she never spoke with the caller but believed it was Kristin because she would often call late at night.

Kennedy is then asked by Sanger when the focus of the investigation changed, to which Kennedy states May 31, 1996.

He says Cal Poly police had a meeting with the district attorney’s office and during that meeting, it was established that Cal Poly police would continue investigating Kristin’s missing person’s case and the DA’s Office would look into Paul Flores.

As cross-examination continued, Sanger brought up other potential suspects in the case, one of whom reportedly lit a pair of Kristin’s shoes on fire and left them at her doorstep with a “mean note.”

Kennedy told the court he does not remember this incident or person.

Sanger then mentioned two other men by name, one of whom Sanger says Kristin reportedly spent the night with the night before she went missing.

Kennedy said he didn’t recall this incident either.

Scott Peterson’s name has been brought up now a few times this week during the hearing in reference to the party Kristin attended on Crandall Way the night before she went missing.

Kennedy on Thursday testified that he was aware Peterson was a student at Cal Poly but said he was unsure of any investigation involving Peterson and whether he did in fact attend the party.

When Sanger asks, "Were you aware that Scott Peterson made a statement to his family about Kristin Smart?" Kennedy said he was not aware.

Another thing Kennedy says he doesn’t remember was a report by Kristin to her RA (resident assistance) of a “peeping Tom” and is unsure whether police interviewed any RAs.

Sanger then references a note written to Kristin by her parents on May 5, 1996. Sanger asks Kennedy if he remembers Stan and Denise Smart saying that Kristin “lied hundreds of times” or that Kristin should get a job. Kennedy again said he does not recall.

The defense then brings up a brown men’s letter jacket that had the words “Bay River San Jose” on it. Kennedy testifies that he remembers the jacket but is unsure whether it was booked as evidence or if it was given to Stan Smart.

Kennedy tells the court that the police department sent out a press release to campus from time to time about Kristin’s case, saying “either from the [Smart] family or from the general public, there was constant request for more info.”

Kennedy says due to the ongoing investigation, he was limited on what details he could share with the family.

Sanger then asks Kennedy whether police put up flyers asking about the case with the words “Wanted” on them. Kennedy testifies that it sounded familiar but clarifies that the police department did not put up a similar flyer with the words “Warning” on it with a picture of Paul, his major and father’s home address in Arroyo Grande.

Kennedy says the "police department did not feel it was an appropriate flyer" and agreed with Sanger that it was concerning to see around campus and said it wasn’t the agency's intention to release information about persons of interest, specifically Paul Flores, but says it somehow got out.

Sanger then asks Kennedy, "as the case progressed, there was a great deal of public emphasis on Paul Flores, to the exclusion of any other suspects?" Kennedy replies, "That was the perception, yes."

Ruben Flores’s attorney, Harold Mesick, begins his cross-examination by asking how many sworn officers were working at the police department on campus at the time the missing person report was filed. Kennedy says about 12, with two detectives and a sergeant assigned daily to the case.

Mesick spends most of his time asking Kennedy about reported sightings of Kristin in the following days and weeks after her disappearance.

Mesick introduces a map into evidence, originally drawn up by Kennedy, depicting more credible sightings of Kristin that were reported.

Kennedy says of the nearly 100 reported sightings, about 10 are on the map. Kennedy remembers one of the more credible reports of a "blonde woman matching the general description of the missing person" spotted at a Taco Bell in Coalinga. The Smart’s reportedly told Kennedy that Kristin liked to go to Taco Bell.

Several objections from the prosecution on grounds of hearsay and relevance are sustained by Judge van Rooyen, which throws off Mesick’s line of questioning about other reports of sightings of which Kennedy did not have personal knowledge.

Mesick moves on to a question about Kristin's banking and whether Kennedy investigated her financial transactions. Kennedy tells the court he remembers an $80 withdrawal from her account before Memorial Day weekend.

"I was looking for witnesses who could put [Paul] in the Santa Lucia Hall,” Kennedy said when referring to his conversation about an alibi with Paul during an interview on May 30.

Kennedy says May 31 is when the DA’s office started investigating Paul’s criminal activity.

Peuvrelle gets another chance to speak with Kennedy to clarify the scope of potential sightings of Kristin.

Kennedy says he estimates they investigated or followed up on a total of 75 to 125 reports of potential sightings of Kristin but said none panned out.

He also estimates the department received 100 to 120 tips in connection to the missing person case but says none of them led to Kristin.

Peuvrelle again asks about the phone call Campos received on May 29 that she believed was Kristin. Campos reportedly told Kennedy it “might have been" Kristin but she wasn't sure because the caller was mumbling.

As cross-examination continued, Sanger questions Kennedy on the processing of Paul’s dorm room, pointing out an investigator went to take prints of the room on June 13, 1996, but that a state forensic tech didn't process the room for trace evidence until June 24.

Sanger asks Kennedy if he checked with campus housing to see when maintenance of the rooms had been done after Paul moved out to the time of the first inspection. Kennedy responds saying he remembers talking to the housing director about closing the room off but adds that "it may have been cleaned" when it was processed.

Campos was then called to testify.
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ORIGINAL STORY: The preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores is now expected to last longer than the original three-week projection, possibly through the month of August, officials announced Wednesday.

The hearing began Monday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.

The father and son were arrested in April and charged in connection with the disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.

Prosecutors claim Paul killed Kristin during a rape or attempted rape and allege Ruben tried to help hide her body after the fact.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

Wednesday, witness testimony included some of the investigators in the case.

Late in the day, some court documents related to the case were unsealed.

Those documents show that Paul Flores's attorney, Robert Sanger, filed a motion to quash, suppress and traverse, asking for evidence in dozens of searches to be thrown out, saying there was not sufficient probable cause.

It's also known as a "Franks motion" when the defense challenges the truth of information used to support search warrants and requests a hearing to discuss their validity.

Sanger is challenging at least 35 search warrants issued over 22 years, arguing they violated Paul's expectation of privacy and were served on basis of "speculation, hunch, innuendo, exaggeration, omission and outright misrepresentation."

In response, the prosecution says if the motions were filed on time, they would need time to address them after the preliminary hearing due to "extraordinarily broad reach of the defendant's motion, the number of search warrants in question, the large number of exhibits, and the general lack of specificity."

Sanger also alleges there are eight warrantless searches, one of those being Paul's former #128 dorm room in Santa Lucia Hall.

Sanger claims Paul's privacy was invaded when investigators searched his former dorm room on June 29, 1996. The District Attorney's office said that search warrant's affidavit, signed July 15, says both Paul and his roommate had vacated the dorm as of at least June 10, 1996, because the quarter had ended and they were required to leave.

The search warrants themselves remain sealed.

Thursday’s hearing begins at 9 a.m.

KSBY will provide updates as they become available.

Due to video and audio restrictions put in place by the judge, the hearing is not being live streamed.