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Paul Flores, the man on trial for murdering Kristin Smart in California, told investigators in 1996 he thought the missing college student “went off with somebody” and was likely dead, according to reports from inside the courtroom.
Flores was in court for Thursday’s proceedings, but his father Ruben, who is charged with helping his son hide Smart’s body, was absent. Ruben Flores’ defense team and the jury overseeing his case was excluded from the day’s proceedings, but returned Friday.
The trial proceedings are not being televised or live-streamed, pursuant to a judge’s ruling. A handful of journalists — including the person behind the “Your Own Backyard” (YOB) Podcast that is credited with renewing interest in the case — have been reporting from inside the courtroom amid the media limitations.
The jury on Paul Flores’ case heard Thursday from Bill Hanley, a senior investigator with the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office in 1996. Hanley was enlisted at the end of May to assist police with the missing persons case. Smart was a 19-year-old freshman at California Polytechnic State University when she was last seen in the early morning hours of May 25, 1996.
Hanley interviewed Flores at least twice about Smart’s disappearance, on May 31 and June 19 of 1996. He told the court that during Flores’ first interview, he asked Flores what he thought might have happened to Smart, according to tweets from the YOB Podcast.
Flores allegedly responded that he thought Smart “went off with somebody,” the tweets state. He allegedly said he believed Smart was no longer alive – and was reportedly the only person whom Hanley interviewed who had made such a suggestion.
Hanley told the jury he chose to speak with Flores the second time because of “inconsistencies and falsehoods in his story,” tweets state. The prosecution then played never-before-seen video of Flores’ June 19 interview.
Among those inconsistencies were Flores’ many responses to how he got the black eye. As was previously reported, Flores initially told investigators he suffered the injury after he was elbowed in the face while playing basketball.
But a friend later denied that claim. Flores admitted to Hanley on June 19 that he was not telling the truth, but called it “a fib” and “a little white lie,” according to the tweets. Instead, Flores allegedly told Hanley, he hurt himself on the steering wheel of his Ford Ranger while he was trying to remove his stereo.
“But that wasn’t important,” Flores allegedly told investigators. “That was days later.”
One of the investigators asked, “What if Roxy punched you in the eye?”
Flores reportedly responded: “It doesn’t matter if I leave out little details.”
According to the tweets, both the prosecution and the defense spent much time going line-by-line through Hanley’s reports from interviews with Flores.
Paul Flores has been charged with Smart’s murder, while his father is charged with acting as an accessory after the fact.
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 a woman, and then 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. A massive search ensued.
Separate 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 four months.