By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Multiple jurors cried in court during the Kristin Smart murder trial on Thursday, as a result of testimony and photos of staining underneath the deck in the backyard of Ruben Flores’s home. [KSBY]
Paul Flores, Ruben Flores’s son, is charged with murdering Kristin Smart during an attempted rape in 1996 following a Cal Poly frat party. After the party, Flores helped escort Smart, who was found passed out on a lawn outside the gathering, back to her dorm. However, Smart did not return to her dorm and was never seen again.
Prosecutors allege Smart’s body had been buried beneath Ruben Flores’s deck and that it was later moved to another location.
On Thursday, archeologist Cindy Arrington testified about the March 2021 excavation. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office hired Arrington’s firm, Natural Investigations Company, to assist in the review of the soil.
Arrington testified that during the excavation, which included use of ground-penetrating radar, investigators found several anomalies in the soil. One of the anomalies was darker soil consistent with human decomposition.
In collaboration with Phil Hanes, an expert in ground-penetrating radar who testified on Wednesday, Arrington came to the conclusion that there was a disturbance under the deck. At one point, soil had been removed and put back, Arrington testified.
During their analysis, Hanes and Arrington found dark staining consistent with human decomposition about two feet deep, the archeologist testified. The staining should not have been in the soil, Arrington testified.
When asked by Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle, Arrington said the digging under the deck had likely been done by hand, not a machine.
Photos of soil staining were shown in the courtroom, prompting one member of Paul Flores’s jury to start crying. Judge Jennifer O’Keefe then halted testimony and ordered that lunch be taken early.
Mustang News reported several other jurors cried previously during Peuvrelle’s questioning of Arrington. Peuvrelle had taken long pauses during the exchange.
Robert Sanger, Paul Flores’s attorney, asked during cross examination whether the stains could have been caused by roots. Arrington replied that they could have been roots, human or animal. It is organic material, Arrington added.
Sanger also asked if there were any fibers or pieces of fabric found at the site, such as a tarp that a body could have been wrapped in. Nothing of that nature was found, and tarps are not organic material, and they decompose at a much slower rate than organic material, Arrington said.