A billboard about Kristin Smart, the Cal Poly student who disappeared from San Luis Obispo on May 25, 1996, will go up on U.S. Highway 101 this week in a new effort by her parents to discover what happened to their daughter nearly 13 years ago.
The billboard, which will be up for about six weeks, can be seen near the north side of the Madonna exit, facing southbound traffic.
Proceeds from a fun run at Kennedy Club Center held for Smart by her parents Stan Smart and Denise Smart two years ago are helping to support the billboard.
“When you have a missing child, the nightmare is never over. We have tried to do something different every year, and for a couple of years we’ve wanted to do a billboard,” she said.
In an effort to reach out to the community with the hope that people will share the information with family and friends, the Smart family hopes this billboard will help them obtain new information regarding their daughter.
Kristin Smart, 19-years-old at the time of her disappearance, attended another student’s birthday party the night she went missing. After leaving the party, Kristin was helped home by four other students from the party, including Cheryl Anderson and Tim Davis. Another student, Paul Flores, walked with Smart to his dormitory, Santa Lucia Hall, and allegedly left her to walk by herself the rest of the way to her dorm at Muir Hall. This was the last known sighting of her. Though Flores was extensively questioned, he was never charged with anything related to Smart’s disappearance.
Someone in the community is the one to find the missing person in 90 percent of such cases, Denise Smart said.
“It’s a vigilance of the community, whether it’s out walking and noticing something or reporting something that they saw or heard,” she said.
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department public information officer Rob Bryn said that the Kristin Smart case continues to be an active, open investigation.
“The Sheriff’s office is pleased with anything that generates a lead and provides fresh information to investigators,” he said.
“Anytime that somebody refreshes a story on an open investigation, there’s always a chance that we may get a lead that we haven’t had before.”
Bryn agreed with Denise Smart that the majority of students attending the university and those working when she disappeared are no longer in the area.
“A lot of the students that are currently at the university have no knowledge of the case, where others perhaps traversing the freeway may,” he said.
The important part is not just observing the billboard, but letting other people know that it is there, Denise Smart said.
“I think it is going to take the village to bring her home. That’s the goal and we just can’t give up,” she said.
The family is hoping to get the billboard sent across the internet to spread the word, with the intention that the person or people who have been withholding information would come across it wherever they are now and be ready to share their knowledge.
Information regarding the billboard and a link to a Facebook page can be found on kristinsmart.com, which has a direct link to her Wikipedia page. The site has a video of her life, a guest book and place for tips sent anonymously.
Denise Smart said it only takes one person sharing information to help end their nightmare.
“The billboard says ‘be a hero,’” Denise Smart said “And I guess the bottom line is that that is what we are looking for. Thirteen years is just 13 years too long,” her mother said.
The greatest gift, Denise Smart said, is to have Kristin remembered.
“We want the opportunity to lay her to rest in the presence of God and her family and know that she is in a beautiful place,” she said. “We’re just a little force so we need the village.”