SALINAS -- Kristin Smart's former Cal Poly classmates took the stand on Thursday as witnesses in her murder trial. 26 years after the Stockton native disappeared after an off-campus party during her freshman year, a former classmate and his father face charges connected to her disappearance.
Paul Flores was a freshman at Cal Poly in 1996 when, San Luis Obispo County District Attorneys say he killed Smart and hid her body with the help of his father, Ruben. The trial was moved out of San Luis Obispo County due to heightened public interest that a judge believed may interfere with the Flores's rights to a fair trial.
In a Monterey County courtroom Thursday, two juries heard more testimony from former Cal Poly students who knew Smart and Flores in 1996 and shared what they recalled.
Jurors saw evidence shared on a screen inside the courtroom, including a map of Cal Poly's campus and a photo of Smart taken before she disappeared with dark hair. According to testimony shared by her mother, Denise, she recently dyed her hair before her disappearance but wanted to change it back.
The first witness Thursday was Mario Garcia, a junior transfer at Cal Poly 26 years ago who lived off campus. He knew Paul Flores, "mostly from the common area in the dorms," because the two "used to play pool together" after classes.
He was asked about Memorial Day weekend 1996, when Smart disappeared, and Flores had a black eye. Flores told Garcia "somebody pushed him at a party" but didn't give specifics. San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peurvelle asked Garcia to describe Flores' demeanor.
Garcia: "He seemed kind of nervous, like, edgy. He's normally pretty outgoing."
In cross-examination, Robert Sanger, Paul Flores' attorney, asked Garcia if he was sure Flores had a black eye after the weekend. Garcia said he was sure and clarified it was after Smart disappeared when Sanger asked.
At this time, in the days following Smart's disappearance, Garcia told the court he was unaware that Flores was interrogated by police several times, already.
Felipe Arias, a friend of Smart's, testified after Garcia on Thursday. He was a student at Cal Poly and shared he met Smart during their freshman year.
"She was a close friend, we hung out a handful of times," said Arias.
He told the court Smart spent the night at his dorm on one to two separate occasions, "probably a month or so prior to her disappearance," Arias said.
He last saw Smart Thursday before she disappeared.
During Sanger's questioning of Arias, he asked if Smart spent the night at Arias' dorm because she was having "problems" with her roommate, who would have her boyfriend over. On these occasions, Smart would sleep somewhere else.
Sanger clarified in an FBI questionnaire Arias said it was five to six times, but in court Thursday he said, "It's possible I said that," but only remembered one to two times.
Sanger asked Arias if Smart attempted to reach him the night she disappeared, or if there was a knock on the window. Arias clarified he lived on the second floor, so no one could reach to knock.
Following former Cal Poly classmates' testimony, the prosecutor called James Camp, the assistant investigator for the San Luis Obispo District Attorney's office, back to the stand.
Camp is asked to review California DMV documents that include driver's license renewals over the years that belong to Ruben Flores, Paul's father, also on trial.
Camp is then asked to review Susan Flores' DMV records. Susan is Paul's mother and Ruben's ex-wife. Sanger and Harold Mesick, Ruben's attorney, object to the relevance of the documents and say sharing them is an, "invasion of privacy for no apparent reason."
The documents outline addresses where the Flores family were documented to live from as far back as 2003 to as recent as February 2020.
Sanger said, during cross-examination, that the way a person looks does not reflect what a driver's license looks like. He added, that addresses on the DMW license are not necessarily where someone lives, "it's supposed to be, but not always," Sanger said.
Camp: "It's certainly possible, yes."
The trial will resume Monday in Monterey County.
Nicolás Viñuela is a CBS contributor and a general assignment reporter for the Mustang Daily News.
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