The attorney for a defendant accused in the death and disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart has filed a motion to dismiss murder charges, citing a lack of probable cause from testimony and evidence presented at a 2021 preliminary hearing, according to court records.
In the motion filed Dec. 17 in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, attorney Bob Sanger cites a lack of any new credible evidence from prosecution witnesses in the nearly 26-year-old case, and the reliance on a witness who Sanger says was influenced by a local true crime podcaster "obsessed" with getting his client convicted.
Additionally, the motion cites a lack of any legal or factual basis for the admissibility of cadaver dog search evidence, and challenges the 2021 searches of an Arroyo Grande residence and a 1996 police interrogation of Sanger's client in the month following Smart's disappearance.
"There must be some evidence to support each and every element of the charges against the defendant, or the finding must fail," Sanger said in the motion. "Although [District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle] touted some new material, that material is not evidence that withstands the most cursory look."
The father and son defendants charged with the death and disappearance of Kristin Smart appeared Monday during a pretrial conference in San Luis Obispo to confirm their trial start date for April and work out details regarding discovery.
Paul Flores, 45, of San Pedro is charged with the first-degree murder of Smart. His father Ruben Flores, 80, of Arroyo Grande, is charged with accessory to her murder after the fact and is accused of burying her body underneath the deck of his residence in the 700 block of White Court. Sanger and attorney Harold Mesick represent Paul Flores and Ruben Flores, respectively. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Smart was a 19-year-old freshman at Cal Poly when she went missing on May 25, 1996. Her body has never been found and in 2002, she was declared legally dead.
She was last seen with Paul Flores near the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grande Avenue, steps away from their dorms, at about 2 a.m., after walking back from an off-campus party, according to Cheryl Manzer, a former student who last saw them together as she walked to her dorm.
Paul and Ruben Flores were arrested at their respective residences on April 13, 2021, and charged the next day. The arrests followed a series of search warrants, including at the White Court residence, in March and April of 2021 in which Sheriff’s Office investigators utilized cadaver dogs, ground-penetrating radar and an archaeologist.
Sanger said the warrants and searches hinged on a new witness, identified as Jennifer Hudson, who testified at the preliminary hearing and whose credibility Sanger challenges because the evidence in her testimony was "nothing more than a drug addict and her friend trying to make something out of nothing," according to the motion.
Hudson testified about her two encounters with Paul Flores over the summer of 1996 during the near-continuous preliminary hearing, which began Aug. 2 and ended on Sept. 22 last year. At its conclusion, Superior Court Judge Craig Van Rooyen upheld the charges, moving the case to a trial start date scheduled for April 25.
In addition, Sanger cites Hudson's and other witnesses' "extensive" contact with Orcutt podcaster Chris Lambert, who produced the "Your Own Backyard" series, and false information he says was given to Lambert by Sheriff's Office Detective Clinton Cole.
The Sheriff's Office tapped the Flores family's phones at the time and chatter regarding information heard on the podcast made Paul Flores a suspect in the case, rather than a "person of interest," which he had been until 2020, according to Cole.
"The only thing that pointed to Paul Flores beyond speculation was the so-called dog alerts at his dorm," Sanger said. "The dogs alerted but there is no evidence as to what caused the behavior."
The motion is scheduled to be heard at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 21 in Dept. 1 of Superior Court.