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3 major moments so far during the Kristin Smart preliminary hearing

Kristin Smart
For the past three weeks, the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court has held a preliminary hearing in the Kristin Smart case.
(The Record via Tribune News Service)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 18. I’m Justin Ray.

For the past three weeks, San Luis Obispo County Superior Court has been holding a preliminary hearing in the Kristin Smart case. It is meant to determine whether or not the prosecution has enough evidence to hold a trial. On Monday, a judge approved a two-day pause in the hearing; it will continue today.

Paul Flores is facing first-degree murder charges, and his father, Ruben Flores, is charged with accessory to murder. Smart, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student, disappeared in 1996 after attending a party. Paul Flores, who was also a Cal Poly student, has denied any involvement or any knowledge of Smart’s whereabouts. (This 2006 piece does a great job explaining the events that took place before Smart disappeared).

I thought I’d use this pause to update you on what has happened so far. There have been some unexpected moments. For instance, convicted killer Scott Peterson has been brought up during the hearing.

Here are other highlights:

  • A woman named Jennifer Hudson testified that she may have heard Paul Flores admit to burying Smart, according to television station KSBY. Hudson says in June 1996, she was with a group of people who heard a public announcement on the radio calling for information about Smart. It was at this point that Paul Flores used vulgar terms to refer to the missing student and said, “I’m done playing with her and I put her out underneath my ramp in Huasna.” On cross-examination, Hudson was asked how she was sure it was Paul Flores. She said he had “dead eyes.” She was asked what color his eyes were, and she couldn’t recall.
  • Paul Flores’ ex-girlfriend claims that she was kept away from the backyard where investigators say Smart’s remains were buried, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. The woman, identified as “Angie Doe,” said she tried to pick an avocado from the backyard at the Arroyo Grande home of Ruben Flores. “I don’t remember if it was Mr. Flores or Ruben, but they redirected me away from the avocado trees,” she said. “They told me to come around [the house] and get away from that area.”

    She has also told investigators about a time when the pair passed a billboard that carried an image of Smart. When she asked Paul Flores about the sign, he said “Oh, just some girl who went missing,” and didn’t mention any involvement.

  • The creator of the popular podcast “Your Own Backyard,” which examines Smart’s disappearance, has been called to testify, the Tribune reported. The defense team served Chris Lambert with a subpoena because of his interviews with many witnesses before they spoke to law enforcement. Lambert’s social media pages appear to have been taken down.

I’ll continue to follow the hearing. For more info on the case, read: “The long, twisted, frustrating road to an arrest in the disappearance of Kristin Smart.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

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L.A. STORIES

Subscriber exclusive: In 2017, actor George Clooney announced he was selling his 5-year-old tequila brand to a British beverage company for a staggering $1 billion. Almost overnight, it seemed that every A-list celebrity was debuting a tequila label — from Arnold Schwarzenegger to LeBron James, Nick Jonas and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But not everybody is happy with the industry’s rapid growth. Los Angeles Times

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Aaron de Jesus Mercado prepares a Batanga drink made with El Tequileno tequila.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County will require face coverings for anyone attending large outdoor events — such as concerts, festivals and sporting competitions — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19. The order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, applies to outdoor events that attract crowds of more than 10,000 people. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Former Rep. Doug Ose said Tuesday he was dropping out of the gubernatorial recall race after having a heart attack. “Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do. It is what is: My campaign for governor is over,” Ose said in a statement Tuesday morning. Ose said that while he was expected to make a full recovery, additional procedures and potential surgery were required and he had to devote his attention to rehabilitation and healing. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Nearly every day this month, someone was a victim of homicide in Bakersfield. “We’ve had 13 homicides this month. The most recent killing happened Monday morning,” television station KGET reports. Three of the last 13 homicides are linked to domestic violence; two were police shootings. The city is approaching 100 homicides for this year. KGET

‘The fear I have of Trevor Bauer, it’s brutal.’ Bauer’s attorney aggressively questioned the woman accusing the Dodgers pitcher of sexual assault. Attorney Shawn Holley brought up text messages that weren’t included in the accuser’s request for a temporary restraining order. On the stand, at one point, the accuser began crying. Her lawyer asked her how her life has changed since she came forward with the allegation: “I lost my job, I lost my place of residence, I had to take a leave from my other job,” the accuser replied. “It’s still hard to fall asleep. ... I’ve lost over 10 pounds.” Los Angeles Times

Trevor Bauer pitches
Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches June 18 in Phoenix.
(Norm Hall / Getty Images)

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The number of people in the state being infected and falling seriously ill with COVID-19 is no longer accelerating at dramatic rates. While some experts are optimistic over the progress, others stress that it’s too early to know whether the surge caused by the highly contagious Delta strain is peaking. California is now reporting about 11,800 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, up 7% from the previous week, according to a Times analysis. Los Angeles Times

California drought takes toll on world’s top almond producer. The drought is taking a heavy toll on the state’s $6-billion almond industry, which produces roughly 80% of the world’s almonds. Growers may abandon their orchards as water becomes harder to come by and more expensive. Associated Press

An emaciated bear cub has the attention of firefighters who fear the animal may have lost its mother in the country’s largest wildfire now burning in Northern California. “Generally when you see them with a sow or a mother bear, they’ll stay with the mother bear and run off,” said firefighter Johnnie Macy. “This bear hasn’t done that, so because of that we think that the bear’s orphaned as a result of the fire.” A rescue team was waiting to extract the cub from the burn-scarred area. Your Basin

Oakland schools latest to announce COVID-19 outbreaks. Oakland Unified School District on Monday reported 16 student and staff cases of COVID-19 at Oakland High and five at Montclair Elementary, resulting in one classroom at each school in full at-home quarantine. The district reported cases among a total of 58 students and 10 staff members districtwide. East Bay Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A new report claims that thousands of garment workers in Los Angeles are being paid less than minimum wage. The workers, who make clothing for many well-known fashion labels, are paid through a system that compensates workers just a few cents per piece of clothing. “We work nonstop. We don’t take any breaks, but make anywhere from $250 to $300 per week,” said one worker. The Guardian

Billie Jean King talked to Times sports columnist Helene Elliott about the tennis legend’s new autobiography, “All In.” King said the timing was right for her to take control of her narrative. “We took more than four years for this thing. It’s been a labor of love, that’s for sure. It does remind you of things. I think one can beat themselves up and say, ‘Why did you do this?’ But it was so obvious why I did it — because of the culture of the times.” King will join the L.A. Times Book Club on Aug. 24. Los Angeles Times

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Wonderful weather! 78. San Diego: A great day to buy your dog a cute car, but don’t let the pup get a ticket, 76. San Francisco: Get a great cup of joe! 69. San Jose: 81. Fresno: 92. Sacramento: 93.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Peter Anderson:

In 1958, most of my friends and I were about 16. We all had cars so we would take turns driving from our homes in Studio City over Topanga Canyon Road to Zuma Beach, which in those days was not crowded and generally had challenging body surfing conditions. I recall being continually in the water for at least three hours at a time and then barely making it back to my towel on the warm sand for a little nap. This scenario was repeated in the afternoon. Pure bliss. Sometimes when someone had enough gas, we would leave Zuma and head south on PCH to a little take away place that served the best cheap burgers and chocolate malts. Our return route often would take us over Coldwater Canyon Road back into Studio City. Life was so simple.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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