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An FBI team prepared Tuesday to excavate a site on the edge of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in hope of finding the remains of a student who vanished more than 20 years ago.
Kristin Smart, 19, of Stockton, was last seen in the early morning of May 25, 1996, while returning to her dorm after a party near the campus in the Central Coast region midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
At the time, another student told authorities he left Smart near her dormitory after they and another female student walked back.
“We’re not sure where this is going to take us,” San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson told a press conference near the excavation site. “Obviously, we want to be optimistic as possible and we hope that this leads us to either Kristin or evidence of Kristin.”
The site in hilly terrain next to a campus parking lot was one of several identified in January by dogs specially trained in detecting the scent of very old human remains.
The location was disclosed because of its high visibility but the other sites were being kept secret because “we do not want to tip our hat to the possible suspect or suspects out there,” Parkinson said.
“We have developed this lead over the past couple of years and have been working on it,” Parkinson said. “This lead was determined, or developed, after a comprehensive review of the entire case.”
The dig, expected to begin in earnest Wednesday and last about four days, was timed to occur while classes were not in session at Cal Poly. The excavation was to go 3 feet deep and extend outward 90 feet, involving 25 FBI agents and unspecified special equipment.
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