Disappearance of Kristin Smart

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Kristin Smart
Born Kristin Denise Smart
(1977-02-20)February 20, 1977
Disappeared May 25, 1996 (aged 19)
Status Missing for 21 years, 1 month and 1 day, Declared dead on May 25, 2002
Nationality American

Kristin Denise Smart (born February 20, 1977, legally presumed dead May 25, 2002) is an American missing person. She disappeared on May 25, 1996 while attending California Polytechnic State University (known colloquially as Cal Poly). Three fellow students escorted her back to her hall of residence after a party. Smart's disappearance is an actively investigated missing person case.

On September 6, 2016, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff Department reported it had received information about the possible location of Smart's remains. A hillside excavation on the Cal Poly campus was launched in an effort to locate Smart's remains. After three days of digging, bones were recovered from at least one excavation site.[1] However, it was initially unclear if the findings were animal or human, and forensic analysis may take months to determine this.[2][3]

Kristin Smart is not related to Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City, Utah teen who was abducted in June 2002 and found alive in March 2003.


Smart was enrolled at Cal Poly. The night she disappeared, she attended a birthday party for a fellow student, which fell on Memorial Day weekend 1996. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on May 25, 1996 she was found passed out drunk on a neighbor's lawn by two fellow students and party-goers: Cheryl Anderson and Tim Davis, who both had just left the party.[4] They helped her to her feet and decided to walk her back to her nearby dorm. Another student from the party, Paul Flores, joined their group and offered to help the two get Kristin back to her dorm room safely. Tim Davis departed the group first since he lived off campus and had driven to the party. Cheryl Anderson was the second to depart the group after she told Paul Flores that he could walk Kristin Smart back to her dorm since he lived closer. Flores stated to police that he walked Smart as far as his dormitory, Santa Lucia Hall, and then allowed her to walk back to her Muir Hall dorm by herself.

This was the last known sighting of her. She did not have any money or credit cards at the time she went missing.

Official Investigation[edit]

The University Police Department[5] originally suspected that Smart had gone on an unannounced vacation, as was common among students over the holidays, and as a result the campus police were slow in reporting her as a missing person to local law enforcement.

During the high-profile Laci Peterson murder investigation, there were unfounded rumors in the media that Scott Peterson had something to do with Smart's disappearance due to their simultaneous attendance at the Cal Poly campus.[6] There was a brief initial inquiry into whether Peterson had any involvement, with Peterson denying any involvement, and he was eventually ruled out as a suspect by police.[7]

Smart's disappearance remains an unsolved case, with no compelling evidence having been discovered to indicate what happened to her, and no body ever having been found.

Between 1996 and 2007, many searches were conducted, some using police dogs trained to detect the scent of human remains, including searches of properties owned by the Flores family. No useful leads were found.[8]

On September 6, 2016, officials from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Office announced they were investigating a new lead in the case.[9] Cadaver dogs from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were brought in and investigators were preparing to spend approximately four days excavating an area on the Cal Poly campus.[9] After three days, items were found at all three dig sites located on the same hillside near Smart's dorm. A spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office said, 'The items are being analyzed to see whether they are connected to the case, which could take days, weeks or months'.[10]


Smart's disappearance and slow response by the campus police resulted in the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act being written and sponsored by Democratic state Senator Mike Thompson, passed 61–0 by the California State Legislature, and signed into effect by then Governor of California Republican Pete Wilson on August 19, 1998. The law took effect on January 1, 1999 and requires all public colleges, and other publicly funded educational institutions to have their security services make agreements with local police departments about reporting cases involving or possibly involving violence against students, including missing students.

Kristin Smart was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002, the sixth anniversary of her disappearance.[11] Smart's parents, Denise and Stan Smart, took a civil case of wrongful death against Paul Flores, one of the three students who walked Smart to her dorm, in 2005. They later dropped the lawsuit.[when?][12] The Flores family had also filed a lawsuit against the Smart family for emotional distress.[8]

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Office still reviews the case regularly, having spent thousands of hours and dollars in the last five years (2011–2016).[13] The FBI have her on file as a high priority missing person investigation, with a reward of $75,000 for information leading to finding her or resolving her case.[14] Terry Black, a Delta-area man, offered a $100,000 reward for Smart's body.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Remains found during dig for missing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart could be human or animal". Los Angeles Times. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  2. ^ "Kristin Smart may be buried near Cal Poly ‘P,’ sheriff says as excavation begins". San Luis Obispo Tribune. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  3. ^ "#Missing Kristin Smart has been missing since May 1996, following a party just off the Cal Poly campus.". California - Missing Persons and Unsolved Cold Cases. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016. 
  4. ^ Winton, Richard (7 September 2016). "Cal Poly student Kristin Smart vanished 20 years ago. Now, authorities are digging the campus for her body". latimes.com. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "University Police Department". Cal Poly, Administration & Finance. California Polytechnic State University. 
  6. ^ "USATODAY.com – Search for missing woman fruitless". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "No link found to missing student". modbee. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Searches for Kristin Smart spanned from Cal Poly to Paul Flores’ home". The Tribune. San Luis Obispo. 6 September 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Scholl, Claire (6 September 2016). "SLO County Sheriff, FBI Begin Excavation at Cal Poly campus in Search for Missing Kristin Smart". KEYT. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  10. ^ Morgan Winsor; Roger Lee; Kayna Whitworth (9 September 2016). "Kristin Smart's Family Is Cautiously Hopeful as Excavation Begins at Cal Poly". ABC News. Retrieved 11 September 2016. 
  11. ^ ABC News. "Laci Presence Hangs Over Kristin Smart". ABC News. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  12. ^ "Laci Presence Hangs Over Kristin Smart". abcnews.go.com. 27 July 2003. Retrieved 7 September 2016. Flores has denied any involvement in the disappearance. Kristin was declared dead in May 2002, and her family subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Flores. They had sued Flores previously, but dropped the lawsuit because they hoped more evidence would surface. 
  13. ^ News Staff. "Sheriff’s detectives searching for Kristin Smart’s remains at Cal Poly". Paso Robles Daily News. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  14. ^ Carlton, April (31 May 2016). "Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart missing for 20 years". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 8 October 2016. offers a $75,000 reward for information 
  15. ^ Thompson, Ellen (24 May 2007). "Family hopes for break in Smart case". recordnet.com. Retrieved 7 September 2016. Delta-area resident Terry Black has offered a $100,000 reward in the case, despite not knowing the Smart family personally. 

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