SALINAS, Calif. – The high-profile Kristin Smart murder trial resumed in Salinas on Monday, with a senior forensic DNA analyst taking the stand to discuss evidence presented later in the case.
Paul Flores is accused of killing Smart, a 19-year-old Cal Poly student at the time of her disappearance in May 1996, because he was reportedly the last to see her alive after an off-campus party that spring. Paul's father, Ruben Flores, is charged as an accessory to the crime.
The trial is still ahead of schedule, despite multiple delays in the hearing.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle asked Angela Butler, a senior forensic DNA analyst with the Serological Institute in Richmond, several questions about how soil samples are tested.
Attorneys brought up the soil samples that contained human blood found at Ruben Flores' Arroyo Grande home, which is believed to be one of the prosecution's main pieces of evidence in the case.
Butler explained how teams looked for unusual pieces in the samples and said that they found samples that were orange, brown, and other darker colors. Teams ran both presumptive tests and confirmatory tests, Butler said.
A presumptive test is a quick way to determine an indication of blood, and no presence of blood or a false positive test comes up as a blueish color, Butler explained. Confirmatory tests are similar to pregnancy or COVID-19 tests, she added.
To be confirmed positive, both the presumptive and confirmatory tests need to yield positive results.
Teams tested six deep soil samplers with both the presumptive and confirmatory methods, and all of the tests returned positive results except one, Butler said.
Butler then went on to explain the process of DNA extraction and testified that there was no indication of DNA on any of the samples. She could not give a definitive answer as to why there was no DNA on the samples, but some reasons could be that the samples were wet and bacteria and DNA do not mesh well, she said.
Butler later testified that plywood from the Flores' trailer was tested for DNA and blood, but neither Smart's nor Paul or Ruben Flores' DNA was found through the test. Teams did find evidence of Mike McConville's DNA, however.
Butler said that samples from a mattress pad with a small "brownish" stain were also tested, and that the results came back as a "DNA mixture." Butler said that neither Smart nor Ruben Flores could be included or excluded.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger then began his cross-examination, rehashing the soil samples. He presented copies of Butler's personal logs to the jury and asked if she tested the PH levels of the samples. Butler said that she didn't.