Fifteen years after Cal Poly student Kristin Smart disappeared, her family remains waiting, fighting for closure.
Stan and Denise Smart — who had their daughter declared legally dead in 2002, six years after she vanished — just want answers. They want someone to tell them where their daughter is buried so they can bring her home.
“This is our child,” Denise Smart said from her home in Stockton. “We can’t change what happened, but we can do something more to honor her. The last gift we can give her is to bring her here. She doesn’t belong under some junk pile ... She deserves to come home.”
There have been multiple leads investigated, several searches conducted and an inundation of community volunteers willing to help over the years.
There’s also been an ongoing legal battle with the last person seen with the then 19-year-old Smart — Paul Flores — on May 25, 1996.
But no arrest has been made.
“It is painful enough to lose a child but to have to navigate this nightmare for 15 years — always trying to be the band leader — is frustrating,” Denise Smart said. “It’s exhausting.”
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson has pledged to create a cold case unit, comprised of a current detective and a part-time reserve officer, to look into unsolved homicide cases, including Smart’s.
Yet without secured funding, it has yet to happen.
Parkinson said Tuesday that the Sheriff’s Department recently completed a plan to re-examine all the evidence involved in the case and will start that process sometime within the next month.
The hope, he said, is that advances in DNA processing will turn up something that wasn’t discovered 15 years ago.
“Being a father, I can definitely understand how frustrated they are,” Parkinson said. “There are a number of homicides dating back that I have inherited, and they are all very important.”
Denise Smart said the biggest frustration comes from not knowing where the case is.
“We just want ongoing communication,” she said. “Just for someone to call us every once in a while — even if it is only twice a year — and let us know that they are still working on it.”
Kristin’s absence is felt daily by her family, on average days and on bigger days — such as the recent wedding of her brother. And still, they are left waiting.
“I know they are frustrated, but they are not the only ones frustrated,” Parkinson said. “The investigators who have worked on this case all of these years are as well, and there is nothing they would like more than for this case to be solved.”