One witness recalls seeing Paul Flores in Smart’s dorm prior to her disappearance
By Camille DeVaul and Melissa Guerra
SAN LUIS OBISPO — Tuesday, Aug. 3, is the second day of the preliminary hearing for Paul and Ruben Flores.
The day’s hearing began on time with Robert Sanger, Paul Flores’s attorney, issuing some concerns with rising COVID cases in the San Luis Obispo County jail.
Sanger was concerned for his client, saying Paul (44) may be at risk in the courtroom.
According to Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, at least two witnesses summoned for the hearing will not be taking the stand due to possible COVID-19 exposure. Sanger suggested the court look at possible changes to keep everyone safe.
Honorable Judge Van Rooyen said the hearing would proceed as scheduled, but everyone in front of the bar will remain wearing maks except when addressing the court.
The prosecution called the first witness to the stand, Steven, a former Cal Poly student and resident of the Glen Muir dorms that Kristin Smart lived in when she disappeared.
Peurvelle established Steven was a Cal Poly student from 1995-2000 and lived on the third floor of Muir Hall in 1996. Kristin lived on the first floor of Muir Hall in room 120.
Now Steven is a veteran and retired police officer for the city of Berkley.
Steven said he and Kristin became friends after commenting on her height and asked if she played basketball. At the time, Steven was on the Cal Poly basketball team and mentioned himself having a large ego then.
Peurvelle had Steven identify his and Kristin’s dorm room from a selection of photos of Muir Hall.
Steven then identified Paul Flores in the courtroom and testified that he saw Paul at Muir Hall twice—both times alone and once on Kristin’s floor and another time on the second-floor time looking “creepy and weird.”
Then, Steven said he once saw Paul in Kristin’s dorm room, saying that looking back, she looked uncomfortable and nervous.
Sanger made several objections, claiming that Steven was creating a narrative and not answering questions. His objections were sustained several times by Judge van Rooyen.
During Sanger’s cross-examination of Steven, he asked if the FBI interviewed Steven in 1999. Steven answered, “yes.” Sanger then asked if Steven told authorities his observations before that interview, and Steven answered “no.”
Sanger asked Steven if he knew he was the only one to report seeing Paul Flores interact with Kristin outside of the party on Crandall Way. Steven said he wasn’t sure.
Further into Sanger’s questions, it appeared Steven’s memory began to slip.
Last month, Steven was interviewed by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. Sanger referred to that report and said Steven often referred to Paul as “creepy” and could not be 100 percent sure Paul was the one he saw in Kristin’s dorm room back in 1996.
Steven then said he could not recall questions pertaining to Kristins’s romantic relationships, whether she used a nickname, wanted to model, or was aware of Crandall Way and the party there.
Harold Mesick, Ruben Flores’s attorney, questioned Steven. He asked Steven if he told Paul to leave when he saw him in Kristin’s dorm. Steven replied by saying he just walked by, regrets not stepping in, and now feels somewhat responsible.
Sanger cross-examines Steven again. He says that when Steven called Paul a “creep” in his 2021 interview, he had formed an opinion.
Steven said, “Okay? This is America.” Sanger responded with, “This is also a court where my client is being accused of murder.”
Peurvelle redirects and asked Steven if he is 100 percent sure it was Paul Flores he saw in Kristin’s dorm room. The Judge overruled Sanger’s objection, saying the question was leading.
Steven repeatedly said it was Paul he saw in the dorm room.
After lunch, a new witness was called to the stand, Matt, another former Cal Poly student.
Peurvelle established that Matt was living in the Sierra Madre dorms on May 24, 1996, and he attended the party at 135 Crandall Way that night. He arrived at the party around 9 p.m. with his roommate Ross. They stayed until about midnight.
Matt confirmed it was Kristin who walked up to him early that night, although she introduced herself as “Roxy.” He said it appeared Kristin had a few drinks but was not stumbling and was slurring a tiny bit.
Kristin asked Matt if his roommate Ross found her attractive, then asked if he found her attractive. Matt replied, “yes.”
Soon afterward, Matt identified Paul as the man who walked up to Matt and asked if Kristin and Ross were an item and if he knew if she was dating. Paul indicated he was interested in Kristin, but Matt does not remember the language Paul used.
When Matt left the party around midnight, he found Kristin lying on the lawn. He told her she couldn’t stay, and she told them to leave. Matt said Kristin appeared far more intoxicated than when he first arrived at the party.
Sanger then began to cross-examine Matt. He confirmed for Sanger that he has spoken to authorities two or three times. More recently, he spoke with the district attorney but declined to speak with the defense’s private investigator, saying it was a “personal decision.”
Sanger then asked if Matt remembers seeing Scott Peterson at the party on Crandell Way. Matt asked if he meant the one in prison and confirmed that, no, he did not see him there.
The next witness called to the stand was Cheryl. She confirmed she also lived in the Sierra Madre dorms in 1996. Cheryl testified that she consumed only 3-4 beers over the course of 4-5 hours that night.
Cheryl said she left the party around 1 a.m. to walk home with a friend.
After Peurvelle asked Cheryl if she remembers Paul at the party, Sanger objected, and Judge van Rooyen sustained.
Cheryl confirmed that she saw Paul at the party and identified him in the courtroom. However, she cannot confirm interacting with him at the party.
When leaving the party around 1 a.m., Cheryl said Tim offered to walk her home. Tim found Kristin at some point, but Kristin did not see that interaction.
Tim, Cheryl, and Kristin began walking home when Paul came up to them, offering to walk her home. At some point, Tim left the group. Cheryl cannot recall the exact details of the walk home and had to have her memory refreshed with her original statement being read.
Before leaving Kristin with Paul at the corner of Grand and Perimeter, Paul asked Cheryl for a kiss which she declined.
Then Cheryl asked Paul if he would take Kristin home. Paul said, “yes.”
Cheryl said the last image she has is Paul with his arm around Kristin’s waist. “I didn’t think anything bad would happen to her,” she said.
During a cross-examination with Sanger, he asked Cheryl if she watched any shows about Kristin and Paul. Cheryl confirmed she watched some of them. However, when asked if she has spoken to Chris Lambert, Cheryl said “no,” but she has listened to the podcast.
Sanger asked if Mahan ever spoke to her. Cheryl said Mahan came to her door, but she did not speak to him and that her boyfriend answered the door.
During a 1997 interview with Detective Stewart, Cheryl told them she did not see any inappropriate touching by Paul.
Sanger then went back and forth with Cheryl deciding whether or not she asked Paul to take Kristin back to her dorm or dorm room.
Later, Detective Clinton Cole of the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office was questioned. Cole has been a sworn police officer for 26 years.
Cole confirmed for Peurvelle that he obtained a booking negative of Paul from Smart’s attorney James Murphy as the police department did not have it. He testified regarding his process to get a copy of the photo, which has yet to be booked into evidence.
Sanger has objections to the photo being entered into evidence. Judge van Rooyen will be reviewing the evidence and will resume the subject during the hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 4.
The names of all witnesses mentioned will be addressed by first name only to protect their identity in accordance with court orders.