Crime

New Lead In 20-Year-Old Cold Murder Case (Photos)

| by Sheena Vasani
Kristin Denise SmartKristin Denise Smart

Twenty years after she disappeared, authorities announced Sept. 6 they may have a new lead in the unresolved case of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo student, Kristin Denise Smart.

In May 1996, Smart -- a 19-year-old college freshman -- disappeared after an off-campus party, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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Despite a massive manhunt that included helicopters and horses, she was never found. She was assumed murdered.

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Authorities say the last person seen with Smart was one-time suspect Paul Flores, a drunk fellow student who was walking her home.

Police did not charge him, stating they never had evidence to do so, but he remains a person of interest in the case.

Smart's family filed a lawsuit against Flores, who denied both "generally and specifically each and every allegation" they accused him of.

Authorities declared her legally dead in 2002 and the case remained unsolved for years -- until, perhaps, Sept. 6, 2016, KSBY reports.

Following the lead of human decomposition dogs and other tips, the FBI and local police announced they will be digging up three sites near the college's hillside "P" sign, which stands for California Polytechnic.

“The campus was the last place Kristin was seen,” San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said near the area about to be excavated. “Due to its high visibility, we really decided it was best to go ahead and disclose why we are here ... We will not give up to find Kristin.”

Authorities are being relatively tight-lipped about the kind of tips they've received.

“The canines and other information led us to choose the three locations,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said, but refused to disclose any further information.

The dogs -- two springer spaniels and a German shepherd mix -- were trained at Civil War battlegrounds to smell human remains, authorities explain.

Regardless of the new tips, authorities say they are still offering $65,000 to anybody with information that would resolve the case.

"We will not give up to find Kristin," Parkinson said.

Sources: Los Angeles TimesKSBY / Photo credit: KSBY