Jurors overseeing the California trial for the two men accused in Kristin Smart’s disappearance and death heard from a woman who testified that accused killer Paul Flores once said he “put” or “buried” the missing college student under his skate ramp, according to reports from inside the courtroom.
After their return from an extended holiday break, jurors absorbed hours of testimony from several evidence and forensics experts on Wednesday and Thursday morning, before hearing from their final witness: A woman who described how Flores made comments about Smart and her whereabouts.
Smart was a 19-year-old college student at California Polytechnic State University in 1996 when she vanished after an off-campus party, investigators have said. More than 26 years later, Flores – the man who was last seen with Smart – and his father, are standing trial on charges related to her presumed death.
Flores, now 45, has been charged with Smart’s murder. Ruben Flores, his 81-year-old father, was charged with acting as an accessory after the fact.
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Prosecutors allege Ruben Flores helped his son bury Smart’s body under the deck of his Arroyo Grande home – and then later removed and relocated her remains when law enforcement returned decades later.
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The trial proceedings are not being televised or live-streamed, pursuant to a judge’s ruling. A handful of journalists — including local news station KSBY-TV and the person behind the “Your Own Backyard” (YOB) Podcast, which is credited with renewing interest in the case — have been reporting from inside the courtroom amid the media limitations.
On Thursday, Jennifer Hudson took the stand to testify about her encounter with Flores decades earlier.
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According to KSBY, Hudson said she was skateboarding with Flores and a group of others in 1996, when she was 17.
Court papers previously described Hudson’s run-in with Flores.
“[A] radio advertisement came on that piqued everyone’s interest,” court papers regarding Hudson’s account recalled. “A Public Service Announcement was read asking if anyone had information about Kristin Smart or her disappearance.”
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According to court papers, “Flores responded to the PSA by saying that b—- was a d— tease and that he was done playing with her. He buried/put her underneath his ramp in Huasna.”
She allegedly couldn’t recall if Flores said “put her” or “buried” when uttering the sentence, court papers state.
“It did not appear to [the woman] that he was joking as he was not laughing or smiling,” documents allege. She then left, and said she “vomited” the next time she saw him.
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But she did not contact the police “because she was afraid, and he knew people she hung out with.”
Hudson testified that Flores had “evil eyes,” according to the report.
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She reportedly acknowledged in court that she did not initially notify police about her encounter with Flores until after the release of the YOB Podcast, but her friend had notified authorities anonymously before she did.
During cross-examination, Hudson testified that the podcast maker had asked her not to report certain information to police, but she said told authorities everything she knew, according to the report.
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Thursday’s trial proceedings ended with defense attorneys arguing that Hudson only notified authorities because of the prospect of a reward.
She is due to return to court on Monday.
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Smart was a student at Cal Poly’s San Luis Obispo campus in 1996 when she was allegedly heavily intoxicated, with Paul Flores, after an off-campus party on Crandall Way. She was walked back from the party by three people — two people, a man and woman, and Flores. The others slowly peeled off after Flores allegedly insisted multiple times that he could get Smart home safely.
She was never seen again.
The state has said Flores killed Smart in his dorm room while he tried to rape her when they were both freshmen. The disappearance prompted a massive search.
Dual juries were selected from a pool of more than 1,500 Monterey County residents to oversee each case separately but simultaneously. The trial is expected to last months.