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"I did whatever I could": Kristin Smart's mother first witness to testify in daughter's murder trial

Murder Trial Of Paul & Ruben Flores Resumes After 2-Day Delay
Murder Trial Of Paul & Ruben Flores Resumes After 2-Day Delay 00:33

SALINAS - The prosecution's first witness called to testify against Paul and Ruben Flores, charged in connection with the 1996 disappearance of Stockton's Kristin Smart, is the woman who knew the 19-year-old Cal Poly student best: her mother, Denise Smart.

Denise gave the jurors a window into her daughter's life, not just the aftermath of her disappearance. The first physical piece of evidence she was handed, a photo of Kristin in 1995 at her high school graduation from Lincoln High in Stockton, California.

CBS13 was inside the courtroom and noted Denise was visibly nervous and expectedly emotional as she spoke about her daughter, Kristin. Her voice broke, briefly, when San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle asked her to identify the members of her immediate family in a photo showed to the courtroom.

"I felt like the life of my daughter was of no value to anyone except her family," said Denise.

She detailed the series of law enforcement missteps she was met with in the first days of her daughter's disappearance. After the first call her daughter was missing, Denise said she called the President of Cal Poly at the time.

She said she was referred to the Residential Advisor at Kristin's dorm, who said they could not disclose information about a student due to privacy. Then, she explained, she called the San Luis Obispo Police Department and the sheriff who, she said, told her they had no jurisdiction on the Cal Poly campus.

"For the next 25 years, I did whatever I could and looked for answers wherever I could," Denise told the court.

Peuvrelle asked Denise about the last letter she wrote to her daughter in May 1996. Denise described it as her, "buckle up buttercup" letter to her daughter, as she explained, Kristin felt challenged at Cal Poly.

She further explained to the court school had been "easy" and Kristin was successful. When she arrived at Cal Poly, like most freshman in their first year away from home, Denise added Kristin was in an adjustment period.

"I never would've thought it was my last letter to write to my daughter. And because in this day and age, this would've been an extended phone conversation, and we did not have that opportunity," said Denise.

The letter, she said, was written as part of, what she called, her "parenting job" to redirect and support her daughter, reminding her that any challenge she could accomplish.

After a lunch break, Paul's attorney Robert Sanger will resume his cross-examination of Denise Smart.

This is a developing story and will be updated as court continues.

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