Disappearance of Kristin Smart

Kristin Denise Smart (born February 20, 1977,[1][3] legally presumed dead May 25, 2002) is an American woman who was presumed to have been abducted and killed at the end of her freshman year of college, May 25, 1996, on the campus of California Polytechnic State University. Three fellow students escorted Smart back to her hall of residence after an off-campus party. Her death is an actively investigated missing person case.

Kristin Smart
Smart in March 1995
Kristin Denise Smart[1]

(1977-02-20)February 20, 1977
DisappearedMay 25, 1996 (aged 19)
San Luis Obispo, California, U.S.
StatusMissing for 23 years, 8 months and 24 days; declared legally dead on May 25, 2002
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)[2]
  • Stan Smart (father)
  • Denise Smart (mother)

On September 6, 2016, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff Department reported it had received information about the possible location of Smart's remains, resulting in a hillside excavation on the Cal Poly campus. After five days of digging, bones were recovered from at least one excavation site.[4] However, it was initially unclear if the findings were animal or human, and forensic analysis may take months to determine.[5][6]


Kristin Denise Smart was born February 20, 1977 in Augsburg, Germany, to Stan and Denise Smart, both teachers.[2] She had one brother and one sister.[2] Smart's family relocated to the United States during her childhood, where she was raised in Stockton, California.[2]


Smart was enrolled at California Polytechnic State University, or Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, California. On the night she disappeared, which fell on Memorial Day weekend, Smart attended a birthday party for a fellow student. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on May 25, 1996, she was found passed out on a neighbor's lawn by two fellow students, Cheryl Anderson and Tim Davis, who both had just left the party.[7] They helped Smart to her feet and decided to walk her back to her nearby dormitory. Another student from the party, Paul Flores, joined their group and offered to help the two return Smart to her dorm room safely.

Davis departed the group first since he lived off campus and had driven to the party. Anderson was the second to depart the group after she told Flores that he could walk Smart back to her dorm, since he lived closer.[8] 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.[9] This was the last known sighting of her. She did not have any money or credit cards at the time she went missing.[10]

Official investigationEdit

The University Police Department[11] originally suspected that Smart had gone on an unannounced vacation, as was common among students over the holidays, and as a result were slow in reporting her as a missing person to local law enforcement.

During the Laci Peterson murder investigation, there were unfounded rumors in the media that Laci's husband Scott Peterson had something to do with Smart's disappearance due to their simultaneous attendance at the Cal Poly campus.[12] There was a brief initial inquiry into whether Peterson was tied to the disappearance, with Peterson denying any involvement, and he was eventually ruled out as a suspect by police.[13]

Smart's disappearance remains an unsolved case, although compelling evidence was discovered that points to Paul Flores knowing what happened to her. Although her body was never discovered, Smart’s bloody earring was found by a tenant at the former residence of Paul Flores’s mother. This earring has since mysteriously disappeared from police custody. 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.[14]

On September 6, 2016, officials from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office announced they were investigating a new lead in the case.[15] Cadaver dogs from the FBI were brought in and investigators were preparing to spend approximately four days excavating an area on the Cal Poly campus.[15] After three days, items were found at all three dig sites located on the same hillside near Smart's dorm. A spokesman for the 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".[16] The items uncovered are still being investigated as of 2020.[17]

Legacy and later developmentsEdit

Smart's disappearance and slow response by the campus police resulted in the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act being written and sponsored by State Senator Mike Thompson, passed 61–0 by the California State Legislature, and signed into effect by then-Governor Pete Wilson on August 19, 1998. The law took effect on January 1, 1999, and requires all public colleges and 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.

Smart was declared legally dead on May 25, 2002, the sixth anniversary of her disappearance.[18] Her parents, Denise and Stan Smart, took a civil case of wrongful death against Flores, one of the three students who walked Smart to her dorm, in 2005. Flores has denied any involvement in the disappearance. The Flores family had also filed a lawsuit against the Smart family for emotional distress.[14]

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office still reviews the case regularly, having spent thousands of hours and dollars in the last five years (2011–2016).[19] 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.[20] Terry Black, a Delta-area man, offered a $100,000 reward for Smart's body.[21]

Beginning September 30, 2019, Chris Lambert released a series of seven podcast episodes.[22] The podcast recounts, in detail, all publicly available information about Kristin's abduction and subsequent death at the hands of another student on the campus of California Polytechnic State University over 23 years ago. The podcast was downloaded over two million times in its first 4 months. Renewed public interest led to a new billboard being put up in Arroyo Grande in January 2020 to replace the original, which had been up since 1997.[23]

On January 18, 2020, the Stockton Record reported that the FBI informed Smart's family that additional news about her disappearance would be coming and that the family "might want to get away for a while" but did not provide any specific information. However, on January 22, 2020, The Record issued a correction: the FBI did not contact the Smart family; rather, a retired FBI agent who had been in contact with the family for years was the source of the advice.[24][25] On January 29, the San Luis Obispo police department confirmed that two trucks owned by Flores had been taken in as evidence.[26] On February 5, 2020, search warrants were served for "specific items of evidence" at four different locations: San Luis Obispo (2), Washington state (1) and a home in Los Angeles County (1).[27] Flores was briefly detained during the search.[28][29][30]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "1652DFCA - Kristin Denise Smart". www.doenetwork.org. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Mitchell 2003, p. 16.
  3. ^ "Kristin Denise Smart – The Charley Project". charleyproject.org. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  4. ^ Winton, Richard (September 12, 2016). "Remains found during dig for missing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart could be human or animal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  5. ^ "Kristin Smart may be buried near Cal Poly 'P,' sheriff says as excavation begins". San Luis Obispo Tribune. September 6, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  6. ^ "#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. September 10, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  7. ^ Winton, Richard (September 7, 2016). "Cal Poly student Kristin Smart vanished 20 years ago. Now, authorities are digging the campus for her body". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  8. ^ Townsend, Catherine (September 8, 2016). "A New Investigation Into The Disappearance of Kristin Smart, Who Vanished From Her College Campus 20 Years Ago - CrimeFeed". CrimeFeed. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  9. ^ "Where is Kristin Smart? 19 years later, Cal Poly student still missing". Mustang News Staff. Mustang News. May 28, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  10. ^ Ellis, Ralph (September 7, 2016). "A break in a cold case on Cal Poly campus". CNN. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  11. ^ "University Police Department". Cal Poly, Administration & Finance. California Polytechnic State University.
  12. ^ "Search for missing woman fruitless". USA Today. Associated Press. January 18, 2003. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  13. ^ "No link found to missing student". modbee. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Lambert, Cynthia (September 7, 2016). "Searches for Kristin Smart spanned from Cal Poly to Paul Flores' home". The Tribune. San Luis Obispo. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Scholl, Claire (September 6, 2016). "SLO County Sheriff, FBI Begin Excavation at Cal Poly campus in Search for Missing Kristin Smart". KEYT. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  16. ^ Morgan Winsor; Roger Lee; Kayna Whitworth (September 9, 2016). "Kristin Smart's Family Is Cautiously Hopeful as Excavation Begins at Cal Poly". ABC News. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  17. ^ Matt Fountain (March 3, 2017). "Kristin Smart investigation continues 6 months after Cal Poly excavation". The Tribune. Retrieved August 8, 2017.
  18. ^ ABC News. "Laci Presence Hangs Over Kristin Smart". ABC News. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  19. ^ "Sheriff's detectives searching for Kristin Smart's remains at Cal Poly". Paso Robles Daily News. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  20. ^ Carlton, April (May 31, 2016). "Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart missing for 20 years". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved October 8, 2016. offers a $75,000 reward for information
  21. ^ Thompson, Ellen (May 24, 2007). "Family hopes for break in Smart case". recordnet.com. Retrieved September 7, 2016. Delta-area resident Terry Black has offered a $100,000 reward in the case, despite not knowing the Smart family personally.
  22. ^ SLO Tribune. "Kristin Smart podcast details missing Cal Poly student's case". SLO Tribune. Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  23. ^ KSBY News. "Arroyo Grande business donates new billboard for Kristin Smart". KSBY News. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  24. ^ Highfill, Bob (January 18, 2020). "Could answers be coming in Kristin Smart's disappearance?". Stockton Record. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  25. ^ https://www.cbsnews.com/news/kristin-smart-case-fbi-reportedly-tells-mom-of-woman-missing-since-1996-to-be-ready-for-unexpected-news/
  26. ^ Leslie, Kaytlyn; Fountain, Matt (January 29, 2020). "Kristin Smart update: SLO sheriff confirms 2 key pieces of evidence in missing person case". The Tribune. San Luis Obispo, California. Archived from the original on January 30, 2020.
  27. ^ Burke, Minyvonne; Blankstein, Andrew; Li, David K. (February 5, 2020). "Search warrants served in 1996 disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart". NBC News. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  28. ^ "Classmate of Kristin Smart Briefly Detained, Police Search Home Decades After Her Disappearance". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  29. ^ "Paul Flores detained in disappearance of Kristin Smart". Cal Coast News. February 5, 2020. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  30. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/us/paul-flores-kristin-smart-update.html


  • Mitchell, Corey (2003). Dead and Buried: A Shocking Account of Rape, Torture, and Murder on the California Coast. New York City, New York: Pinnacle Books. ISBN 978-0-786-01517-7.

External linksEdit