On May 24, 1996, Kristin Smart, a California Polytechnic University freshman, went missing after attending an off-campus party. A little over 20 years later, detectives found items of interest while excavating two sites located near the campus. On Friday, they uncovered yet an additional item of interest at a third site, although it’s still unclear exactly what it is.
The Tribune reports that the FBI, along with deputies from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, finished digging up the last of three sites on Friday evening, which, similar to Tuesday’s excavation, yielded an item of interest. Friday’s search took place in a small wooded area on the higher end of the Cal Poly “P” hill.
— KTLA (@KTLA) September 9, 2016
San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla stated that authorities still cannot publicly announce what item was found on Friday, nor can they disclose the other items of interest, found during previous searches around the “P” hill.
“I can’t really elaborate on what the items were. I can tell you that they are being analyzed by forensic anthropologists to determine if they are related to either humans or animals.”
It could take anywhere from days to months to determine if authorities found anything significant, and even then, the information still may not be released. Cipolla indicated that the decision would be up to the sheriff, and whether he thinks public release of the information would hurt the case, which remains ongoing.
“Ultimately it will be up to the sheriff to make a determination if we release that information to the public because we have a criminal investigation that is ongoing and the sheriff does not want to jeopardize that case.”
When asked whether any of the items found earlier this week helped with understanding how Smart may have disappeared, Cipolla said that the detectives “can’t quantify or qualify one item over another.”
Even if the items prove to be unsubstantial, Cipolla feels the effort was worth it, as the areas can now be marked as searched
“Even if we don’t find Kristin’s remains here, it is beneficial. We can cross another location off our list.”
Kristin Smart was 19 when she disappeared. She called her parents at around 8:00 p.m. on May 24, and left a voicemail detailing her plans to go to a party, but they never heard from her again. After she attended the party, a fellow student, Paul Flores, accompanied her back to her dorm, located at Muir Hall. Flores later told police that after Smart walked into her dorm, he returned to his own dorm room, Santa Lucia Hall, located uphill from Muir Hall.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) September 9, 2016
Detectives began to suspect something amiss when Flores, who had a black eye at the time, told him he got it while playing baseball, but later admitted it happened while he was working on his truck. Afterwards, he clammed up, refused to cooperate with authorities, and retained a lawyer.
Cadaver dogs were sent to search for Smart across the campus, but they sniffed their way towards room #128 at the Santa Lucia Dorm, the room where Flores lived. Two dogs went straight towards a mattress on the left-hand side of the room, while showing no interest at all in the mattress on the right-hand side of the room. Detectives confirmed that Flores slept on the bed on the left-hand side of the room. The dogs were separated before entering the room, but both showed great interest in Flores’ bed.
According to Sgt. Peter Bayer of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office,
“Those dogs hit on this room, room 128, at the Cal Poly campus, and specifically came into this room and hit on this mattress and the corner of this mattress. This room was occupied by, coincidentally, the male subject that was last seen with Kristin Smart on the day she became a missing person.”
Although Smart’s fluids weren’t found on the bed, the cadaver dogs were trained to pick up scents that immediately follow a human’s death. According to court documents, Adela Morris, a CARDA dog handler, indicated that there was “a strong possibility that a deceased body had been in that room.”
Yet, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Flores, or anyone else for that matter, for Kristin Smart’s disappearance. Regardless, detectives refuse to give up and vow to continue following leads until they can solve what happened to her.
[Image via Shutterstock]