A number of people gathered at the Dinosaur Caves Park in Pismo Beach, California, last night to participate in a vigil for Kristin Smart, the Cal Poly student who went missing a little over 20 years ago. The vigil ended with a peaceful protest outside the mother’s house of the person who many feel is responsible for Smart’s disappearance.
KEYT reports that a group of citizens, from children to adults, and even a few pets, were in attendance at the “Point of Hope,” an area at Dinosaur Caves Park dedicated as a permanent memorial to Smart, who was just 19-years-old the last time her family heard from her. The group lit candles and prayed for Smart, who was last seen leaving an off-campus party with fellow student, Paul Flores, on May 24, 1996.
Flores, now 38, has remained a person of interest in the case since Smart’s disappearance. In 2007, authorities excavated the backyard of his family’s Arroyo Grande home, in hopes of finding something that would lead them closer to solving the case. Nothing of interest was found. A number of people ended the evening’s vigil at Flores’ family home, where a peaceful protest ensued. A candle flickered in the window of house, possibly in honor of Smart, but Flores’ mom, Susan, didn’t walk outside even once, despite numerous protesters calling her name.
One of the vigil’s organizers, David Smallwood, feels that Smart will be found soon, which could finally give her parents some desperately-needed closure.
“Mr. and Mrs Smart have had a roller coaster ride, they get excited about things and then they plummet into depths of maybe not despair, but disappointment. To tell you the truth, I think we’re closer to the end of this thing.”
Although the vigil coincided with three excavations that took place this week on the Cal Poly “P” hill, the vigil organizers, who’re also the creators of the “Find Kristin Smart” Facebook page, indicated that the prayer vigil was already planned in advance, well before the FBI and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office began digging in three different areas on the hill, hoping to find Smart’s remains. The excavations turned up several items of interest, but authorities haven’t yet told the public exactly what they found.
One of the vigil attendees, Edmund Aguilar, felt that detectives probably didn’t like the idea of the vigil and protest, since they’re keeping the investigation under tight wraps while they continue to build the case and hopefully, not only find Smart’s remains but arrest the party responsible for her death. Aguilar said the following.
“I think they would have liked it if it had gone away but now its blowing back up in their face with social media and everything. I believe they are being forced to do something with the community standing behind Kristin Smart.”
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office are dedicated to finding Smart, regardless of how much it takes. They’ve already spent thousands of dollars and used up thousands of hours worth of investigative work and vow to keep going until the case is solved.
FBI Special Agent Tom Brenneis, the senior team leader for the Los Angeles Evidence Response Team division, stated that they stand fully behind the sheriff’s office and although “it is hard labor,” (referring to the excavations) the team will continue to help out.
Kristin Smart’s parents remain hopeful, yet cautious. Throughout the years, they’ve experienced a number of promising leads that turned to disappointment after they were no closer than before to finding their daughter. Earlier this week, they issued a written announcement, thanking the community and investigators for their prayers and support.
“Kristin has long deserved the attention, effort and respect that Sheriff Parkinson, his department, the FBI, the District Attorney and Cal Poly are giving to her recovery and our quest for justice. We are confident that the ‘person of interest’ will soon be held accountable for taking her life and harboring her remains for over 20 years.”
[Image via Shutterstock]