By Abigail O’Branovich and Torstein Rehn
Mustang News reporter Abigail O’Branovich sat down with Chris Lambert, the host of the “Your Own Backyard” podcast, who has been reporting at the preliminary hearing, and soon trial, for the Kristin Smart case. Lambert’s Hallway Blog has kept his listeners informed and “in the seat next to him” as he attempts to bring justice to Smart through his work.
Q: When you started the podcast, did you expect to be working on it for this long?
A: I had tried for a job at a local newspaper but there were far more qualified people. I went home and I told my girlfriend, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get that job.’ So what should I do? Should I keep being kind of miserable and working the job that I’m in? Or should I quit and give this podcast thing a go?
I really want to tell this story. I don’t know if I’m qualified to but nobody else is telling it right now, so I’ll give it a shot. I thought the worst-case scenario, a few 100 people would listen and remember her, and maybe somebody better than me will come along and tell the story better than I can. But then once I started piecing it together, I thought this had the potential to be a very extensive documentary and I’m glad that it turned out the way that it did. So there was a period of time where I thought it was only going to last two or three months and, in reality, it’s been three years now.
Q: Did you expect there to be a trial in the future?
A: I definitely didn’t see a trial in the future. From my perspective, when I was investigating, it felt like the sheriff’s department wasn’t even interested in solving it anymore. Luckily that turned out not to be true, and that was based on the things that had been made public, but I definitely never thought it would get to this point.
Q: What was it like to be in the room with the Flores family after writing, discussing and researching them for many years?
A: It was underwhelming. I would have hoped that they would have had some more emotion and that you could have seen some reaction from them. They were very stone-faced and kind of stoic.
And on top of that, I didn’t see Paul ever make eye contact with me. He was sitting up front, but you know, his mom [and dad were sitting in the hallway with me]. And I know they know who I am. I see them look over at me every once in a while, and I wasn’t sure if they were intentionally trying to get my attention, but it was very tense. I didn’t realize that they were allowed to wander the hallway the same way that we do. They’re going to lunch at the same place as we are; they park in the same parking structure as us; and so you run into them sometimes — there’s no protection.
Q: With all of the information that you’ve learned over the years, and being in the preliminary hearings for 22 days, did you hear any information that was shocking to you?
A: There’s a lot of those, it’s hard to narrow it down. I was shocked when I learned that Paul Flores had been videotaping himself, [sexually assaulting] unconscious women and saving them on his computer.
I was also shocked when they found blood under Ruben’s deck. I had suspected that was one of the possible locations that she could have been in, but when they dug and they didn’t find her body there, I thought “Dang, we missed it” or “This is the wrong spot.” But then they did soil testing, and it was positive for human remains. The archaeologists who testified said they saw everything indicative of a human burial in this hole, except the body.
Also one of the cadaver dog handlers took the stand. To hear them talk about the strength of their dog’s alerts — one of the women said “This was the strongest alert that my dog ever gave in her entire career,” and that includes when she found actual full human bodies – I was like, “Wow, that’s flooring to hear.”
Q: Because the preliminary hearings lasted 22 days, do you have an idea of how long the trial could last?
A: “I heard somebody in the courtroom, after we were excused, saying that their estimate was between four to six months and I don’t know how accurate that is, but that’s the number that I’ve heard a few times.
In all likelihood, the defense is definitely going to push for a change of venue because they’re going to try to say that San Luis Obispo is too biased against Paul Flores at this point, but you know, it’s been so saturated in the media, it’s gonna be hard to find anywhere that’s not equally biased. I think the prosecution is going to fight to keep it here in town, but I don’t know what they’re going to decide.
So the next step is the arraignment on Oct. 20, and that’s where they’ll determine whether or not it’s going to be moved. And so we’re at this point where we really don’t know anything about the trial. It’s just all speculation, but I think it’s going to be a long one.
I think this is a case where you’re never going to have all the evidence you need — too much time has already passed – so after 25 years, this is as good as it gets. We either go to trial now with what we’ve got or we will probably never have a chance to go to trial with better evidence. I think this is the best it’s gonna get.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Scan the QR code to read the full story on mustangnews.net.