A development may be coming in the case of Kristin Smart, the Cal Poly freshman and daughter of a former Napa educator whose disappearance in 1996 remains unsolved, but the timing and nature of any announcement remains unknown.
Smart has been missing since May 25, 1996, after she walked away from an off-campus party and was never seen again. Her body has never been recovered, although she was declared legally dead in 2002.
The Cal Poly freshman was last seen walking back to her dorm room with Paul Flores, a 1995 Arroyo Grande High School graduate, who also was attending classes at the university at the time of Smart’s disappearance.
Although no charges have ever been filed in the ongoing investigation, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department has considered Flores a person of interest from the beginning.
Kristin Smart’s father, Stan Smart, was the principal of Vintage High School in 1996, at the time of her disappearance, and later served six years as the Napa Valley Unified School District’s director of student services before retiring in 2006.
Smart’s mother, Denise, in a Jan. 18 article published in the Stockton Record, said she was recently contacted by the FBI and told to be ready for a development in the case.
Denise said she was told by authorities, “Be ready. This is really going to be something you don’t expect. We want to give you the support you need.”
The FBI also suggested she secure a family spokesperson and the family “might want to get away for a while,” according to the Record, although officials did not provide any time frame.
Denise has offered no further comment and pointed people toward the podcast “Your Own Backyard: The Disappearance of Kristin Smart,” produced by Orcutt resident Chris Lambert, 41.
Lambert has delved into the 23-year case, spending months conducting research and interviews before the launch of the podcast in September.
He was not immediately available for a comment, although he is planning to release a seventh episode by month’s end, where he will reportedly interview San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s detectives.
The Smart family has given its full support to the Sheriff’s Department, which will provide investigative updates, according to a statement released by the family.
When contacted Wednesday about news of any development, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla would not comment on any aspect of the case because it is an active investigation.
Sheriff’s officials last worked with FBI agents during excavations related to Smart’s disappearance on the Cal Poly campus in September 2016.
A team of 25 agents and 15 local sheriff’s deputies excavated a large swath of the hillside behind some of the older dorms on campus in an effort to find remains of Smart or evidence that may lead to her body.
Although remains were found during the excavation effort, there was no official announcement after they were sent for testing by forensic anthropologists to determine whether the remains were animal or human.
Another vigil for Kristin Smart is planned for 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo, to show support for the Smart family, according to organizers.
Napa Valley Register reporter Howard Yune contributed to this report.
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