It’s been nearly 20 years since Cal Poly student Kristin Smart vanished without a trace, and it still feels like yesterday.
Kristin was 19 years old when she disappeared. She was walking home from a party near the Cal Poly campus in the early morning hours of May 25, 1996. That was the last time she was seen. Investigators questioned many of her friends within days of her disappearance. One friend, Paul Flores, walked Kristin home in the early morning hours of May 25. Flores remains the last known person to have seen Kristin alive. While Flores maintains he dropped Kristin off at her dorm before heading home, he rightfully remains at the top of the very short list of persons of interest in Kristin’s disappearance.
Over the years, in a combination of situation and circumstance, evidence to fully link Flores with the disappearance of Kristin Smart has remained just out of reach.
District Attorney Dan Dow (full disclosure: I have done work for District Attorney Dan Dow in the past) and Sheriff Ian Parkinson each has brought in the most experienced investigators available to continue to examine the open case. Evidence continues to be gathered, and as new information becomes available, they will continue to build a compelling case with one outcome in mind: conviction.
It’s important to note this distinction — the goal is not to just indict a suspect in the death or disappearance of Kristen, but to indict the suspect with enough evidence to get a conviction from a judge and jury.
If investigators were to indict any suspects and they were found not guilty by a judge or jury, additional charges could not be brought against them if more evidence were found. That’s due to the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Investigators need a strong, solid and convincing case from the moment they indict to ensure the proper individuals are brought to justice, not just tried and released.
Although Kristin disappeared before the age of cell phones and the Internet, a strong online presence and grassroots campaign have kept Kristin’s memory and her case alive in our community.
I have seen a number of “Find Kristin Smart” bumper stickers on cars around San Luis Obispo County. as well as banners and yard signs in front of businesses and homes. Additionally, fliers are being handed out at local events.
A Kristin Smart website has childhood videos of her as well as information about her disappearance, and a very active Facebook page called “Find Kristin Smart” has nearly 5,500 members.
Members on the Facebook page post almost daily, offer prayers and support to the Smart family, and are constantly organizing members to attend community functions like the San Luis Obispo farmers market. Their goal is to raise awareness about who Kristin Smart is and continue to push for new information from people who have some knowledge of what happened the night of her disappearance.
These people aren’t clinging to a lost hope or grasping at straws — they understand that keeping Kristin’s memory and disappearance alive in the community is vital to finding out what happened almost 20 years ago.
In Davis, a college town not unlike San Luis Obispo, a long-standing case only recently found closure. In 1980, two students were found murdered after not showing up to a birthday party. Like Kristin Smart, a lack of clear evidence and suspects kept the case open for nearly 32 years. Just three years ago, after new information became available, evidence fell into place and a suspect clearly surfaced. A case so compelling that it took the 12-person jury less than three hours to find the suspect guilty.
This is the type of case we need to mount for Kristin Smart.
Often when people can’t see the work going on behind the scenes of an investigation, they become disheartened and assume the worst.
We must keep Kristin’s case alive. We must continue to talk about her story and her disappearance and remind those who might know something that we haven’t forgotten about her.
It will only take one tip or piece of evidence to finally put Kristen to rest and give her family the closure they deserve.
Become a part of the movement and help investigators find any information they can to convict a suspect in the disappearance of Kristin Smart. Join Kristin’s Facebook group at “Find Kristin Smart” and request a bumper sticker or lawn sign. If you have information regarding Kristin Smart’s disappearance, please call San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson at 805-781-4500. Anonymous tips can be left at www.KristinSmart.com.