Judge rules ‘Your Own Backyard Podcast’ will not testify in Kristin Smart Case

SAN LUIS OBISPO – On Wednesday morning, Sept. 9, Judge van Rooyen ruled ‘Your Own Backyard’ podcaster Chris Lambert won’t testify during the preliminary hearing for Paul (44) and Ruben (80) Flores.

The father and son are charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Paul has been charged with her murder, and Ruben is being charged with accessory after the fact.

Both men were arrested in April. Ruben is out on bail, but Paul remains in the San Luis Obispo (SLO) County jail with no bail.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Kristin’s remains have never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

Chris Lambert attorney Diana Palacios. POOL: SEP. 8, 2021 (Dave Minsky/Santa Maria Times)

Chris Lambert

Earlier in the hearing, Lambert was subpoenaed by the defense to testify and provide documents related to Kristin’s case. Lambert then filed an objection to the subpoena.

The judge granted a motion to quash a subpoena that would have required Lambert to provide documents related to Kristin Smart’s case.

Lambert’s 12-episode podcast dives into Kristin’s disappearance and includes interviews with multiple people, some of whom Lambert did not identify, and covers potential evidence in the case.

Paul’s defense attorney, Robert Sanger, accused Lambert of influencing at least two witnesses who previously testified in the case. He added that Lambert’s claim to California’s shield law, which protects journalists from being forced to testify about their sources, can’t supersede his client’s right to fair trial.

Lambert was represented by attorney Diana Palacios, who produces the “Your Own Backyard” podcast.

Angela Butler

Following Lambert’s ruling, Angela Butler then took the stand, testifying that human blood was found in soil samples taken from Ruben’s property on White Court.

She tested the soil samples at a serological lab in Richmond, California, where she’s a senior analyst and lab supervisor.

Butler testified that five soil samples taken during the March search tested positive for human blood, and another eight soil samples taken during an April search tested positive for human blood.

According to Butler, two tests were performed, including an orthotolidine test, a presumptive test, and a Seratec HemDirect test, which is a confirmatory test that identifies hemoglobin in human blood.

She explained that no DNA was detected in any of these samples.

She said there was either not enough there to detect, or there may have been some, but it may have degraded.

Butler also explained that the samples were damp and there were bacteria in the soil, which could further explain why there was no human DNA detected.

She also swabbed a piece of plywood from a trailer on Ruben’s property for DNA but said she did not find the DNA of Kristin Smart or Paul or Ruben Flores.

Under cross-examination, the defense questioned whether Butler was 100-percent certain there was human blood in the samples, and she said yes.

In one of the samples, Butler said some small clumps of material were dark-colored orange, brown, and slightly reddish fibers, which she gave back to lead Detective Clint Cole.

In addition, Butler testified that she could not extract DNA from the samples, although indicated that tests for mitochondrial DNA — which show a connection to the mother — are currently being analyzed by her lab.

Robert Cudworth

Two more people testified during the afternoon portion of the hearing.

SLO Police Patrol Lieutenant Robert Cudworth was working with Cal Poly police in 1996. He testified that he interviewed Paul Flores on May 28, 1996, about what he said happened the night Kristin disappeared.

Cudworth said Paul did not have a black eye at the time but that he did have scrapes on his knee and what appeared to be a black eye during another interview with Paul on May 31, 1996.

JT Camp

JT Camp, an investigator with the SLO County District Attorney’s Office, was also back on the stand. He talked about some of the items found in Kristin’s dorm room, including a credit card, Social Security card and checkbook with a Stockton address on it all belonging to her.

Camp says those items were brought to the DA’s Office in August of this year from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.

The hearing is expected to pick up again Thursday. After that, there will be a break until Sept. 20.

Thursday, Sept. 9

Thursday, Sept. 9, wrapped up the sixth week of the preliminary hearing for Paul (44) and Ruben (80) Flores.

Court began on Thursday with cross-examination of San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Specialist Shelby Liddell, who testified that she was involved in collecting soil samples and taking photos at Ruben’s Arroyo Grande home in March and April of this year.

Liddell first took the stand on Sept. 1 and was questioned on two dig sites excavated during the March and April searches of Ruben’s backyard. 

Liddell worked with registered professional archaeologist Cindy Arrington on the sites where soil stain samples allegedly showed the presence of human decomposition, according to testimony.

According to Liddell, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) was used in 11 locations of Ruben’s backyard. Four of those spots, which showed anomalies, were excavated.

Prior to the GPR use, cadaver dog searches were conducted on the same day in March showed changes in behavior but no alerts on the same dig sites.

Liddell said staining in the soil was discovered around two and a half feet and continued down at one of those dig sites.

She testified that something could have been buried above the location to leave that kind of staining and said it did not appear the stains had been disturbed.

Liddell said she was told a sample taken from the March dig tested positive for blood, which is why they returned in April to collect more samples.

She added that a second area above the first dig that was difficult to access but not impossible was also excavated after decking was removed.

Soil samples were taken from both spots.

Paul’s attorney, Robert Sanger, questioned whether the deck looked like it had been removed before, and Liddell said no.

She said there were multiple stains under the deck, and the shape and size changed throughout the digging.

Sanger pointed out that in the middle of the dig area under the deck, there’s a sewage clean-up valve, to the right of that a dryer vent, and next to that another vent for the crawl space under the house.

Liddell was the only witness to testify on Thursday.

The defense is filing a motion to suppress, quash and traverse three search warrants from March and April. Sanger said his client has the legitimate expectation of privacy in the areas that were searched.

The defense also went over their possible witnesses. Various detectives will testify, among others, but the judge ruled that convicted murderer Scott Peterson will not be allowed to testify.

The judge said there was no evidence of any connection between Smart and Peterson or that he was even at the same party on Crandall Way that Paul and Kristin attended just before her disappearance.

The father and son are charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance and murder of 19-year-old Cal Poly student Kristin Smart. Paul has been charged with her murder, and Ruben is being charged with accessory after the fact.

Both men were arrested in April. Ruben is out on bail, but Paul remains in the San Luis Obispo (SLO) County jail with no bail.

Kristin’s remains have never been found, but she was declared legally dead in 2002.

The hearing will now be on break and will resume on Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. at the SLO County Superior Court.