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Kristin Smart murder trial underway in Monterey County

SALINAS, Calif. – The Kristin Smart murder trial is officially underway in a Salinas courtroom – 26 years after the former Cal Poly student disappeared in May 1996.

Paul Flores is accused of killing Smart, who was a 19-year-old Cal Poly student at the time of her disappearance in May 1996, because he was reportedly the last one to see her alive after an off-campus party that spring. Paul's father, Ruben Flores, is charged as an accessory to the crime.

Two sets of opening statements were heard on Monday, one for Paul and one for Ruben.

The trial began with Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O'Keefe guiding the jury through instructions for roughly 20 minutes. Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle was about to begin his opening statements when defense attorney Robert Sanger asked for a conference.

Following the recess, Peuvrelle began his opening statements by noting that it has been 1,359 Sundays since Smart went missing.

It was a reference to the weekly tradition Smart had with her parents, calling her parents each Sunday to provide them with an update on what was happening in her life. When Smart failed to call on Sunday, May 26, 1996, it was their first indication something was wrong.

He then for 90 minutes explained to the jury who will testify, and what statements they will make, along with evidence such as soil samples that tested positive for blood found at Ruben's home – a place he described as "just about a perfect place to hide a body."

Peuvrelle talked about the "numerous inconsistencies" that Paul made in statements to the police after Smart disappeared.

He said all of the above will show the guilty that Paul is guilty of killing Smart.

"I expect you to find the defendant Paul Flores guilty of murdering Kristin Smart," Peuvrelle said.

Sanger then began the opening statements for the defense, explaining that he will question the credentials of the dog handlers and scientists used by the prosecution to collect evidence.

“This is obviously a tragic situation but there is no evidence of what happened to her,” Sanger said.

Sanger spoke extensively about the podcaster – who he did not mention by name, but was referring to "Your Own Backyard" podcaster Chris Lambert who is credited with reviving interest in the case through a 10-part podcast series – who he claimed law enforcement used by giving him information in an effort to provoke statement by the Flores family who was being wiretapped by police.

He claimed that a number of sting operations have been performed over the years to try and get Flores to incriminate himself, including planting an informant in the Santa Barbara County Main Jail many years ago.

He said that Paul has been the victim of a concerted media campaign from the very beginning to paint him as the killer.

Toward the end of Sanger's opening statements, he questioned the accuracy of the forensic evidence that the prosecution will present and questioned the honesty of a key witness, Jennifer Hudson, who is scheduled to testify.

Hudson claimed Flores confessed that he killed Smart to her in the summer of 1996.

To tie it up, Sanger asked the jury to find Paul not guilty.

Following the opening statements for Paul's trial, the defense and prosecuting teams will make their opening statements for Ruben's trial.

News Channel 3-12 had a team in Salinas covering the first day of the trial.

Paul and his father were arrested 25 years after Smart's disappearance, in April 2021.

Evidence hearings for the case first began in San Luis Obispo County in August 2021, but the case was moved to Monterey County in March after Flores' defense team successfully argued that he could not receive a fair and impartial trial in San Luis Obispo County.

Jury selection began on June 13 and concluded last week. The judge heard final motions on Friday.

Article Topic Follows: San Luis Obispo County
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Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue is the Assignment Editor and web journalist at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Jade, click here

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