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Search for Kristin Smart's body begins on Cal Poly campus 

After more than 20 years of searching, investigators may finally be close to discovering the remains of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart.

On Sept. 6, the SLO County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI began excavating a section of land in the hills near Cal Poly’s “P” landmark. It’s just one of several locations both on and off campus where investigators are digging in search of Smart’s remains.

click to enlarge PROMISING LEADS:  SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson explains on Sept. 6 that his office and the FBI will be excavating locations in and around the Cal Poly campus before school starts, hoping to finally solve the 20-year-old case of what happened to student Kristin Smart. - PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • PROMISING LEADS: SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson explains on Sept. 6 that his office and the FBI will be excavating locations in and around the Cal Poly campus before school starts, hoping to finally solve the 20-year-old case of what happened to student Kristin Smart.

“We are hopeful that this will lead to the finding of Kristin, or evidence that will bring closure to the family and ultimately to the community,” SLO Sheriff Ian Parkinson said.

Smart disappeared in May of 1996, and the high-profile case remains unsolved. Parkinson said the excavations were the result of new leads developed after a comprehensive review of the case over the last two years. Those leads “strongly suggested” that Smart’s remains might be buried on the campus hillside. In January, the FBI brought in specially trained cadaver dogs from Virginia, which alerted investigators to several possible locations in the area. Parkinson said some of the areas had been searched previously, but those searches occurred when Smart’s case was a missing person’s case, and not a homicide investigation.

“It’s like when you are missing your keys in your house. You do a broad search, then a specific search,” he said. “This is a very specific search.”

Parkinson said the excavation would take approximately four days. The department is working with a team of 25 FBI evidence recovery specialists. The department declined to identify the other excavation locations and only publicly announced the hillside location because of its high visibility.

The search for Smart’s remains was scheduled shortly before Cal Poly’s fall quarter is slated to begin, and few students are on campus. In a memo sent to staff, university President Jeffrey Armstrong said Cal Poly was fully cooperating with the Sheriff’s Office.

“Her tragic disappearance has had profound impacts both within and beyond our campus community,” Armstrong wrote.

With the possibility of bringing the county’s most notorious unsolved case to a close, investigators stopped short of guaranteeing a resolution.

“We must manage our expectations,” Parkinson said. 

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