STOCKTON -- Neighbors are holding out hope that an excavation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for traces of Kristin Smart, who went missing in 1996, will bring closure to her family in Stockton.
"I would never not for a second, not continue looking for my kids, any glimmer of hope, I'm holding onto it," neighbor Christina Figuero said.
Several of the neighbors on the street have lived near the Smart family for the duration of the 20-year search for Kristin, and were familiar with the case. Many told FOX40 they were hoping that her family finally got some closure.
On Tuesday, nearly 250 miles from their home, excavation crews dug up soil at three sites at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, one of which was underneath the P in an iconic sign painted on a hillside. Neither sheriffs detectives nor the FBI would comment on what exactly led them to those locations, only that they were following a promising tip, and would have scent dogs on scene.
"It is our hope and our desire that this leads to some of the answers that we've been asking for the past 20 years, uh, as to what happened to Kristin," San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said.
Kristin Smart, then a 19-year-old student at the campus, was last seen at an off campus party on May 25, 1996. Investigators say witnesses last saw Smart with Paul Flores. Twice, sheriff's investigators searched the Arroyo Grande home of Flores' mother, including excavating a small portion of her yard. Smart's family sued Flores in civil court, but he was never charged in her disappearance.
Sheriff Parkinson said Tuesday Flores was still a person of interest.
"We're committed to not stopping until we're able to bring this to a closure. The family knows that," Parkinson said.
The Smarts did not answer their door or return FOX40's calls on Tuesday. Neighbors said they were out of town with relatives as they waited to hear about the results of the excavation.
Figueroa said she knew the outcome of the excavation would be hurtful for the family, whether or not they found their daughter's remains.
"But at least they're gonna have closure, at least they'll know what happened to her, where she was and it's not just she's lost and never found," Figueroa said.
Detectives say excavating the three sites is expected to take four days.