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Judge rules Scott Peterson will not testify in Paul Flores preliminary hearing

SLO County Judge Craig van Rooyen
SLO County Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen appears in court Thursday morning. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - A San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge ruled late Thursday afternoon Scott Peterson will most likely not testify in the Paul Flores preliminary hearing.

Flores defense attorney Robert Sanger presented Judge Craig van Rooyen with a list of witness candidates he hopes to call to the stand once the prosecution rests its case.

Among the potential witnesses was Peterson. The convicted killer was a Cal Poly student at the time Kristin Smart disappeared on the night of May 24, 1996.

Paul Flores is accused of killing Smart, who disappeared from Cal Poly after an off-campus party. His father, Ruben Flores, is accused of helping his son conceal her body. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Sanger argued Peterson may be a suspect in the 25-year-old case, pointing out a statement he made to a relative about not wanting investigators to search a lake he was associated with.

Sanger mentioned the statement was taken seriously enough that it caused the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office to search two ponds on property Peterson was known to have access to.

Van Rooyen decided to exclude testimony from Peterson, as well has his brother Mark and father Lee. He cited there is no evidence to connect Scott Peterson to Smart, or the party she attended before her disappearance.

However, van Rooyen did leave open the slight possibility Peterson may be allowed to testify if Sanger were to present the court with new information that shows he is relevant to the case.

Earlier in the day, testimony focused mostly on the excavation sites at Ruben Flores' Arroyo Grande home.

Thursday's hearing began with the continued questioning of a Shelby Liddell, a San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office forensic specialist who helped collect dirt samples taken during searches of the Flores' home this past March and April.

Liddell previously testified on Sept. 2 and resumed her testimony with Sanger.

Sanger zeroed in on the "odd staining" that investigators discovered in the dirt under the deck.

Sanger asked Liddell if someone had been buried in that hole and then removed, wouldn't it prevent the detailed staining that was visible in a photo displayed on a projector, which showed a distinct jagged line in the dirt.

Liddell responded by saying a body could have been buried above the hole, which was located on an incline, and fluid could have flowed downhill causing the stain in the dirt.

Sanger, along with Ruben Flores defense attorney, Harold Mesick, also questioned LIddell about the April search where Sheriff's investigators removed a large section of the deck.

Both attorneys pointed out how little space there was between the deck and the dirt underneath, thus making it difficult to dig a large hole when the deck was intact.

When Mesick asked Liddell why the deck was removed, she answered it was to make it easier to access for investiagtors.

In addition to Liddell, Thursday's hearing was expected to include testimony from Jennifer Hudson, who has become a key figure in the case.

Hudson testified last month that Paul Flores had told her in the summer of 1996 that he had buried Smart under a skateboard ramp in Huasna.

Hudson is also at the center of a couple of defense allegations, so there was great interest in her re-taking the stand Thursday.

Sanger accused lead Sheriff's investigator Clint Cole of inappropriate communications with Hudson, giving her sensitive information about the case.

He also accused Orcutt podcaster Chris Lambert of providing Hudson with information about the case, supplied to him by the sheriff's office, in order to manipulate and interfere with her testimony.

However, Hudson was unable to testify Thursday due to a personal scheduling conflict that prevented her from coming in.

She is expected to return to court on the week of Sept. 20.

The now six-week long hearing is taking a break Friday and all of next week. The preliminary hearing will resume on Sept. 20.

The hearing was originally expected to last 12 days, but has gone long due to multiple delays. When the hearing finally concludes, the judge will rule if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Digital communication is limited during this preliminary hearing. We will continue to bring you updates on-air and online throughout the process.


Playlist: The Disappearance of Kristin Smart

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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