Christine Smart jury deliberates fate of Paul Flores

salinas, california (cron) — Christine Smart A jury in a murder trial is weighing the fate of two men accused of committing a horrific crime.

Paul Flores, 45, was charged with raping and murdering a 19-year-old Caltech freshman in his San Luis Obispo dorm room in 1996.

His father, 81-year-old Ruben Flores, is accused of helping his son cover up the murder by burying Smart’s body in the backyard of his home in Arroyo Grande, where he hid the remains for 20 years. Prosecutors said the Flores family moved the body to another secret location shortly before the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office issued a search warrant.

The jury left the Monterey County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon without reaching a verdict. Deliberations will resume on Thursday.

Paul Flores is “guilty as guilty,” deputy district attorney Christopher Pouvrel declared in closing arguments Monday.

Prosecutors face two hurdles raised by Flores’ attorneys in their closing arguments. 1. Smart’s body has never been found. 2. A witness’s memory fades in his 26 years.

Paul Flores at a court hearing on July 18, 2022.

“Nobody” Murder Trials

With no body or witness to Smart’s death, prosecutors were forced to rely on circumstantial evidence.

In April 2021, an empty cemetery with traces of blood was discovered in Ruben Flores’ backyard, hidden under the deck of his home, according to forensic archaeologist testimony. Investigators using ground penetrating radar said someone exhumed and moved the bodies just before a search warrant was executed on the premises.

“They had to move Christine’s body. They knew a search warrant was coming. It was a secret grave. It was the exact measurements of her body,” Peuvrelle said.

“In this case, we don’t have a complete, intact body, but we do have her blood. A few grains of bloody sand…that’s all the Smart family left for their daughter,” Puvrel said.

Christine Smart
Christine Smart

Defense attorney Robert Sanger told jurors that the patch of dirt was not a cemetery and that there was no concrete evidence that Smart was murdered.

“There is no evidence of murder. Conspiracy theories are interesting. But you are here as a juror. The accused is presumed innocent. People have to prove that fact beyond reasonable doubt.” No,” Sanger said.

Ruben Flores’ attorney, Harold Messick, said Smart could still be alive.

“It’s totally unlikely that Christine Smart is still alive anywhere,” Messick said. “There is evidence to support a reasonable inference that Christine Smart went missing. She had a habit of disappearing. She had only one real friend at Cal Poly. She Other girls didn’t like her because she was crazy about boys.

“My client is completely innocent. I think the case screams reasonable suspicion,” Mezik said.

Smart was declared legally dead in 2002.

Paul Flores has been a prime suspect since Smart’s demise. He was the last person to see Smart alive on May 25, 1996. He lied to law enforcement during questioning. Flores attends the same off-campus party as Smart and reassures his two other students that Smart will make it safely back to his dorm room.

During the three-month trial, prosecutors showed pictures of Paul Flores’ first-floor dorm room, showing how easy it was to lift a body out of the window and out of the building into a car. . It was Memorial Day weekend at the time, so there were very few students on campus. His roommate was in Oakland and Paul Flores knew he had four full days before he returned.

Pointing to a father and son sitting in court, Peuvrelle said, “We’re not talking about the men you see today: 19-year-old Paul Flores, stocky (55-year-old) Ruben Flores. We’re talking about two strong men in 1996. Together they could easily move a young woman weighing 145 pounds.

Ruben Flores (left) speaking with attorney Harold Messick. (David Middlecamp/The Tribune/Pool/Files)

According to phone records shown in court, the only calls Paul Flores made over the weekend of Smart’s disappearance were to his sister and father. The prosecutor said, “I knew that the only person who could help a dead girl in bed was her father.”

Corpse dog trainers testified that their highly trained dogs alerted them to the smell of human remains in the mattress section of Flores, but never to the rest of the dormitory building. Sanger dismissed the dog search for dead bodies as “junk science”.

Smart’s mother and father testified that their daughter got along very well with her parents and her younger brother and sister. She called home every weekend. However, after May 25, 1996, she was not seen or heard from.

Sanger reminded jurors that prejudice, sympathy, or passion should not influence the verdict. Yes, so I can’t say I’m going to convict,” he added.

26 years from disappearance to trial

“A delay in justice doesn’t have to be a denial of justice. We now know the truth. The truth is out,” the prosecutor said.

Many of the witnesses who testified were teenagers or young college students at the time of Smart’s disappearance. Several former Caltech students who attended the party said that shortly after Smart had something to drink with Paul Flores at the party’s tiki bar, Smart suddenly collapsed, became “incoherent”, and left the house outside. One partygoer testified that Smart didn’t smell like alcohol even when he kissed her.

Steve Fleming, one of Smart’s closest friends from Cal Poly, told police he saw Paul Flores frequently lurking around the dormitory, even though he lived in a different building. Fleming testified that Flores was “creepy” when trying to get Smart’s attention, but she was “too kind to tell him”.

Attorneys tried to question Fleming’s memory, asking several times if he was sure he remembered the correct student.

Peuvrelle said the evidence obtained at the trial shows exactly what happened to Smart. Flores “hunted” her around campus for months until he saw an opportunity.

Peuvrelle presented a timeline of the time just before Smart went missing. Smart passed out on the lawn from midnight to 2am.” (Paul Flores was stranded seeing her alone and vulnerable. He took a chance after months of hunting. found out,” the prosecutor said.

According to Campos’ testimony, Smart’s friend Margarita Campos said that when Smart dropped her off at a party at 10:30 p.m., “all she had was the clothes she was wearing on her back.” I testified.

In addition to fading memories, defense attorneys attempted to cast suspicion on the prosecution’s star witness, Jennifer Hudson, by attacking her character. He testified that he made a chilling confession of murder while hanging out.

Flores confessed about Smart: According to Hudson’s testimony, I finally got enough of her shit just by her guiding me, so I took care of her.

Sanger said his client never uttered a “vulgar” word and told jurors that Hudson was a former motorcycle gang member who used meth. “Her story was ridiculous. Jennifer Hudson has all sorts of problems,” he said.

Paul and Ruben Flores will not be arrested or charged until 2021.

“Mr. Flores was not arrested (in 1996) because there was not enough evidence to convict him. In 1996 there was more or less evidence than there is now,” Sanger said. .

The trial was held in Salinas, 100 miles north of San Luis Obispo County, to ensure jurors were not tainted with pretrial publicity. After both jurors have finished their deliberations, the father and son verdicts are read simultaneously. Judge Jennifer O’Keeffe said, “The purpose is to read verdict after verdict. Christine Smart jury deliberates fate of Paul Flores

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