I’ve been in the law enforcement profession for more than 35 years. That’s a long time by any standard. And during the course of my career, there has been only one case that has generated local, statewide, national and international attention. And that, of course, is the tragic disappearance of Kristin Smart. As you know by now, Kristin was the 19-year-old Cal Poly student who went missing in May of 1996. With renewed interest in the case because of the podcast “Your Own Backyard” and with the recent developments which resulted in the Sheriff’s Office serving search warrants at four locations with connections to the Smart investigation, I thought it might be especially timely to clear up a few misconceptions regarding this case.
Has this ever been a cold case? The short answer is no. Ever since Kristin’s disappearance, it has always been an active, on-going investigation. There has always been a Detective or Detectives assigned to work on this case. For a case to be deemed “cold,” all tips and leads have been exhausted. That’s certainly not the case with this investigation. We continuously receive tips regarding this case. And we continuously follow-up on those leads.
What has been accomplished on this case? Much of the work on this case has been done out of the spotlight. Because of the podcast and the search warrants, many folks have assumed there has been little work conducted on this case until recently. That assumption, however, is incorrect. Since I was elected in 2011, we have had a team of investigators and forensic specialists who are actively working on the Kristin Smart case. This includes:
- The service of 22 search warrants
- Conducting physical evidence searches at nine separate locations
- A complete re-examination of every item of physical evidence seized by all agencies involved in this case
- Submission of 37 evidence items from the early days of the case for modern DNA testing
- Recovery of 140 new items of evidence
- Conducting 91 person-to-person interviews
- The writing of 364 supplemental reports
Altogether, the Sheriff’s Office has spent approximately $62,000 in investigative expenses. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office has invested more than 7,500 employee hours since 2011 when I took office.
Did anything ever come of the dig on the hill on Cal Poly’s campus? At the time of the excavation in 2016, we found items of interest that were sent off to forensic anthropologists and other experts to examine. And while we were hopeful this might result in a positive outcome, the items were not connected to Kristin. However, that excavation project was beneficial in that we were able to scratch that location off the list of possible sites that may be connected to Kristin. And we continue to examine other locations that might prove productive.
What’s next? We continue to analyze the items of interest that were discovered at the four locations where the search warrants were served. We continue to follow-up on any new leads or tips which are generated in this case. And we continue to work this case until its ultimate conclusion.
I maintain a very close, personal relationship with Kristin’s parents, Stan and Denise Smart. I want nothing more than to give them closure in this case by finding Kristin and finding the person or persons responsible for her disappearance. I’m committed to finding the answers, not just for the community, not just for Kristin’s family, but for Kristin and the memory of her who lives in all of us.