The California juries overseeing the murder trial for missing college student Kristin Smart had questions for a dog handler whose K9 alerted several times in and around accused killer Paul Flores’ dorm room, according to reports from the court.
Dog handler Adela Morris returned to the stand for hours on Tuesday inside a Monterey County court, where Paul Flores, 45, and his 81-year-old father, Ruben, are on trial for the disappearance and death of 19-year-old Kristin Smart. Smart was a college freshman at California Polytechnic State University in 1996 when she was last seen with the younger Flores.
The trial proceedings are not being televised or live-streamed, pursuant to a judge’s ruling. A handful of journalists — including KSBY.com, and 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.
Jurors are allowed to pass notes with questions to a bailiff for the attorneys and the judge to decide whether to ask them in court and submit them as evidence. In court on Tuesday, jurors had multiple questions for Morris, who boasts more than 30 years of experience as a dog handler with a specialty in human remains detection, KSBY reported.
According to the news station, a juror asked how long a cadaver’s scent could be picked up by K9s, but Morris ultimately responded that she was unable to accurately answer.
When a juror asked if the dog might alert to the scent of human vomit, she reportedly said she didn’t fully know.
Another questioned centered on research that was published after the 1996 search of Santa Lucia Hall, and whether Morris had learned anything that changed her opinion about Cholla’s responses during the search, the report states. Morris reportedly said she could not remember anything that caused her feel differently about her dog’s findings.
Another juror question stated: “You don’t know what it was Cholla found/alerted to because the testing is done by someone else?” according to a tweet from the YOB Podcast.
Paul Flores’ defense attorney, Robert Sanger, reportedly then asked: “In this particular case, you didn’t see anything, but a lab later on may be able to find something?”
“That is correct,” Morris responded, according to YOB Podcast tweets.
After Morris’ testimony was complete, jurors heard from a different K9 handler, Wayne Behrens, who, with his dog, was also tasked with assessing the dormitory on June 29, 2022, according to the tweets.
Much like Morris’ K9s, Behrens said his dog, Sierra, also alerted to Room 128 – Flores’ room – and then Flores’ portion of the room, and the mattress.
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.