SALINAS, Calif. – Ruben Flores' jury began deliberations around 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Paul Flores is accused of killing Smart, a 19-year-old Cal Poly student at the time of her disappearance in May 1996, and Ruben Flores, Paul's father, is being charged as an accessory to the crime.
Closing arguments for Ruben Flores began in the Kristin Smart murder trial on Wednesday morning. Court proceeded at 8:40 a.m. with San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle's closing arguments for the prosecution.
He thanked the jury for their patience and dedication over the past 12 weeks.
The Deputy District Attorney started by telling the jury “the truth is quite simple, Paul Flores murdered Kristin Smart, and he and his dad buried her.”
He added that while there is no body, science and witness expertise will put it all together, especially since, he said, “we have human blood.”
Peuvrelle told the jury that all the Smart family has of their daughter is a few grains of bloody sand found under the deck of Ruben Flores’ Arroyo Grande home.
He then went on to instruct the jury that “you cannot have sympathy for Ruben Flores,” and that he may be old now, but that doesn’t change what he did in the past and continued to do for 26 years, which was to hide Smart’s body.
Peuvrelle said to the jury that he would go through all the evidence and witness testimony that shows Paul Flores killed Kristin Smart. To convict Ruben Flores of being an accessory to the crime, he must prove a crime was committed.
The prosecutor then began a PowerPoint presentation, displaying a photo of Smart in high school, saying, "there is no doubt Kristin Smart is dead."
He then proceeded to show bullet points of how he believes Paul Flores "hunted " Smart during their time at Cal Poly.
Peuvrelle then went through a timeless of the Crandall Way party where Smart encountered Flores on the night of May 24, 1996, detailing witness testimony that showed Smart went from sober to incapacitated within a two-hour time frame.
He called Flores a “serial drugger and serial rapist,” saying he knew Smart was incapacitated and saw it as an opportunity to take her back to his room.
He added Ruben Flores was “the one person who would help him get away with murder,” and “Ruben Flores has been helping him for the past 26 years.”
The Deputy District Attorney later spoke about using cadaver dogs during a search of the Cal Poly campus about a month after her disappearance. He noted four separate dogs, independently identifying his dorm room and providing an “alert” at his bed.
He also used audio clips to show Flores lied on multiple occasions during police interviews, specifically about his facial bruising in the days after Smart's disappearance.
In another clip with now retired Cal Poly Police Detective Mike Kennedy, Flores used the phrase, “right when we got back,” implying Flores returned to his dorm room with Smart.
Peuvrelle also pointed to witness testimony from Jennifer Hudson. She said on the stand that Paul Flores admitted to her in the summer of 1996 that he had killed Smart and buried her under a skateboard ramp in Huasna.
He later talked about how Ruben Flores has repeatedly “guarded” his house, specifically the lattice-line area under the deck.
Peuvrelle brought up an incident when Ruben Flores confronted Stan Smart, Kristin's father, on the street outside the home and threatened to shoot him if he didn't leave.
He also said Ruben Flores called Smart a derogatory word multiple times in front of other people and gave law enforcement an admission.
Peuvrelle explained during a visit from San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office Detective Clint Cole, Ruben Flores wondered why a DNA sample was needed from Susan Flores, Paul's mother, and her friend, Mike McConville. During the conversation, Ruben Flores questioned why they needed to provide a sample since he was the only one to commit a felony.
Peuvrelle later brought up expert testimony that scientists gave earlier that human blood was found in soil samples taken from underneath the deck of Ruben's house.
He also said colored fibers matching the color of clothes Smart wore on the night of her disappearance were also found in the soil.
He later brought up testimony provided by two Southern California women that accused Paul Flores of drugging and raping them, arguing that Flores has continued to prey on women long after he did the same to Smart.
He said, “Kristin Smart is dead. She couldn't tell you what happened to her, but these [women] can.”
Peuvrelle closed by asking the jury to hold Ruben Flores accountable for his actions and to find him guilty of being an accessory after the fact.
Ruben Flores's defense attorney Harold Mesick then started his closing arguments in defense of his 81-year-old client.
He started by thanking the jury for their commitment and sacrifice during the now 12-week-long trial.
Mesick said Ruben Flores is “absolutely innocent, hasn't done a thing and hasn't dug a grave in his life.”
He called the prosecution's case “lacking any physical evidence.”
Mesick then speculated if Smart may still be alive, saying, “there is no body, and without a body, we can't honestly be sure if Kristin Smart is dead.”
He pointed out there are no bones, teeth, hair, fingernails, or blood that the prosecution can directly show belongs to Smart, adding there was no evidence, such as a fingerprint or hair, collected from Paul Flores' dorm room, the alleged crime scene.
Mesick added that Peuvrelle had done a great job “demonizing” both Paul and Ruben Flores during the case.
He later said Paul Flores was a “socially awkward 19-year-old while at Cal Poly, and he didn't kill Smart; he kindly walked her home the night of her disappearance, which Mesick described as doing a “good deed.”
Mesick argued there was no reason to think Paul Flores raped Smart, a woman he didn't find attractive, especially since she was much taller than him.
He later said Smart was not happy at Cal Poly, and she voiced that displeasure in a letter to her parents. He added Smart was known to be a “free spirit” and could be alive somewhere, and though unlikely, it could be a possibility.
Mesick said justice for Kristin, a slogan commonly used over the past two-plus decades, won't happen by wrongfully convicting both Paul and Ruben Flores.
He went on to extoll the virtues of Ruben Flores, mentioning he was a father, grandfather, Navy, police veteran, Elks Lodge member, and a former citizen of the year.
Mesick added Ruben Flores is not an evil man, no matter what the prosecution wants the jury to believe.
He later argued that blood found under the deck was minuscule and that staining in the soil could be from iron oxide related to the avocado orchard that used to be on the site under the house.
Mesick also questioned several of the prosecution's witnesses, including Hudson, who he accused of looking for a reward or “15 minutes of fame” and is part of a “Facebook posse” that will do whatever it takes to put the Flores' behind bars.
As for the cadaver dogs that alerted in Paul Flores' dorm room in 1996, Mesick argued it did not provide any scientific evidence and said, “this is not how we convict people in America, and this isn't evidence.”
He told the jury, “if you don't know what happened, this is reasonable doubt.” He added, “this case screams a total lack of evidence, and the state has not met its burden.”
Mesick said to the jury the prosecution is asking it to “fill in the blanks” and is trying to “bootstrap” a murder case and pin it on Paul Flores, which he once again argued didn't kill or rape Smart.
He closed by saying, “I'd like you to find my client not guilty and send us all home.”