Crews find, test items in dig for student missing 20 years

AP News
Posted: Sep 08, 2016 9:02 PM
Crews find, test items in dig for student missing 20 years

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — Investigators digging for the remains of a California college student who vanished 20 years ago uncovered items that were being examined Thursday to see whether they were related to her disappearance.

Officials didn't reveal what they found this week at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where 19-year-old Kristin Smart was seen returning to her dormitory from an off-campus party on May 25, 1996.

A male student who said he dropped off Smart near her dorm is considered a person of interest, but he has never arrested or charged, authorities say.

The excavation will last a few days and began after a lead emerged through a comprehensive review of the case, Sheriff Ian Parkinson told reporters Tuesday. The two-decade investigation has involved other searches.

The unspecified items found this week were being analyzed to see if they are related to the case, San Luis Obispo County sheriff's spokesman Tony Cipolla said in an email.

The items were found on a hillside near a large concrete letter "P'' that is a landmark of the school, located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. FBI agents and sheriff's employees began digging there Tuesday.

Crews using heavy equipment, then rakes and shovels for more detailed searching, were expected to sift through about 20,000 cubic feet of dirt through Friday.

Dogs trained to detect old human remains identified the locations of the dig in January. Two other hillside sites also were marked for digging, with work on the second site already underway.

Smart's parents, Stan and Denise Smart of Stockton, told The Tribune of San Luis Obispo on Wednesday that they were encouraged by the developments, despite previous fruitless searches over the years.

"We are mindful that with or without the hoped-for results from this week's efforts, we are now on a path that will bring our family peace and comfort," they wrote in an email.