Update 3 p.m.
The search for Kristin Smart’s remains on a hillside near the Cal Poly “P” is expected to last four days, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s and FBI officials said Tuesday. Preparation for the digging project started Tuesday, with work expected around the clock until Friday.
“We’re not sure where this is going to take us,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at a news conference Tuesday. “We will not give up to find Kristin.”
The area was searched 20 years ago as a missing person search — Smart disappeared over Memorial Day weekend in 1996 — but the search now for remains is more site-specific and uses specific tools, officials said. Investigators will initially dig about 3 feet or deeper if needed with specialized tools.
Sheriff’s officials said there are a few areas of interest on the hillside determined by a search earlier this year by specially trained FBI dogs. The Sheriff’s Office is also looking at several other locations in the county but did not release any details on those sites.
Parkinson said officials have not had communication with Paul Flores, the last person to have seen Smart, or his family. He remains a person of interest in the case.
A mobile command post has been set up with 25 FBI agents, 15 members of the Sheriff’s Office and California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials. Parkinson asked the public to stay away from the area.
“I must stress one thing … that we must manage our expectations,” Parkinson added.
Update 2 p.m.
The remains of Kristin Smart, the Cal Poly freshman who disappeared over Memorial Day weekend in 1996, may be buried on the hillside near the university’s “P” landmark, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.
The Sheriff’s Office and the FBI started an excavation project on the campus Tuesday. The project is being done before the fall quarter starts at the university.
Sheriff’s officials said a lead was developed over the past two years that suggested Smart’s remains are buried there. They brought in human remains detection dogs from FBI headquarters in Virginia to search the area in January, according to a news release handed out at a press conference at Cal Poly.
The specially trained dogs “independently alerted on locations of interest in this area of campus,” sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff’s officials said this is one of several locations being looked at and is being disclosed because of the “high profile” location. The Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss other locations at this time.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office is expected to release new information regarding the Kristin Smart missing person case today.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. to “announce a new development” in the 20-year-old disappearance case, according to a news release. It is unknown what the nature of the new information will be.
Early on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend in 1996, Smart, a 19-year-old Cal Poly freshman, left a house party just off campus with two friends and headed back to her dorm. She hasn’t been seen since. Today, she would have been 39 years old.
The 20-year anniversary of the disappearance passed early this year with no new information regarding how Smart went missing, despite Parkinson adding a new detective to the case to bring “fresh eyes to the investigation.”
“It’s like going to work with a blank sheet of music,” Parkinson told The Tribune in May. “We really wanted an unbiased view of what’s been done to date.”
Parkinson noted that a combined $65,000 reward remains on the table for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible.
The District Attorney’s Office has also assigned a new deputy prosecutor to the Smart case, and that investigator meets regularly with the detective, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham told The Tribune in May.
Smart’s disappearance also changed the way universities report crimes. Criticism of the police response to the case resulted two years later in the passage of the Kristin Smart Campus Safety Act, which was championed by the Smart family and supported by the Cal Poly administration.
The measure, signed into law by Gov. Pete Wilson, requires publicly funded universities to immediately contact designated outside assisting law enforcement agencies when violent crimes occur or are suspected to have occurred on a college campus. The law requires that schools have written agreements designating responsibilities of assisting agencies, as well as specific geographical boundaries for those agencies, in cases of homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.