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(KTXL) — Growing up on the Central Coast, Chris Lambert has always been familiar with Kristin Smart’s disappearance, but it wasn’t until about two years ago that he decided to do his own investigating.

It turns out, his podcast “Your Own Backyard” helped detectives make the biggest break in this case in nearly 25 years.

“I grew up just 15 minutes south of where the billboard is,” Lambert said.

Being from the area helped Lambert make important connections right from the start.

“When I realized I had acquaintances who had gone to high school with Paul Flores and gone to parties with Paul Flores and had bad experiences with him, and then they started connecting me. ‘I’ll tell you five other people you should ask about this,’” he told FOX40.

The more connections he made, the more invested he became in finding Smart.

“I thought I might be the only one taking this seriously at the beginning, so I went places with shovels, I dug places. I looked for her,” Lambert said.

As soon as Lambert released his first episode, he realized just how many other people were holding out hope for a resolution in this case.

“The word of mouth and the way that it spread are completely shocking to me still,” he said.

“Your Own Backyard” is nearing 9 million downloads and has gained international attention. This week, it was the number one podcast in the U.S.

“Because of the scope of the podcast and as far as its spread, there was this phenomenon where there were people on the other side of the country who would reach out to me and say, ‘I went to Cal Poly at that time, I didn’t keep up with this case. I thought it was resolved a long time ago, but now that I know that it wasn’t, I might have a valuable piece of info,'” Lambert said.

Lambert started connecting those potential witnesses with investigators.

After Flores was arrested last week on suspicion of murdering Smart, officials credited Lambert’s podcast with bringing them information that led to a break in the case.

“And the exciting part of this is, you’ve never heard from the witnesses that broke this. That the people that I brought to detectives, they had sensitive information,” Lambert told FOX40.

Now, several years into producing his podcast, Lambert has made finding Smart and updating thousands of people invested in this case his full-time job.

He said he won’t stop searching for answers until the Smart family gets the closure they’ve been searching for for two decades.

“Finding out what happened to Kristin and if she was moved, where she was moved to, is what I’ve been working on every day, and I believe detectives are too,” he said. “I think they’re doing some good work behind the scenes and I am holding onto hope that Kristin is still somewhere where she can be recovered.”