It seems investigators are getting closer to finding answers in Kristin Smart's disappearance, finding items of interest during home searches of Paul, Susan, Ruben and Ermelinda Flores.
Smart disappeared on her way back to Cal Poly after an off-campus party in May 1996. Paul Flores was one of the last people to see her and has been called a "person-of-interest" in the case.
San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow couldn't speak about specifics of the case or reveal the items of evidence seized during Wednesday’s search, but he said he and his team hope to find answers in digital devices like phones, computers and iPads.
According to Dow, there could be evidence there that didn't exist in the 90s.
However, before law enforcement even steps foot in the door, they have to convince a judge there is probable cause that evidence is inside.
Once a judge signs off, the planning begins.
"An operation like this involves a lot of pre-planning and coordinating with other law enforcement agencies in those jurisdictions so that we can execute a united plan at the same time to maximize our chances of obtaining evidence that we are looking for,” Dow said.
Investigators are mainly looking to find Kristin, but prosecutors said they're also looking for any evidence to strengthen a potential future case.
“Other types of evidence would be evidence that might lead to a suspect or maybe some admission that a suspect made about their participation in the case and that evidence could have been created at any time, including two weeks ago, in a conversation and that might be able to be obtained,” Dow said.
Dow said today's technology could help uncover the digital evidence needed to solve and win the case.
“Generally speaking, in today's technological world, one could imagine that there might be evidence contained with technology that could be found in a way that we couldn't 24 years ago,” Dow said. “Just the fact that people possess phones and iPads and digital devices. That would clearly be one area we would be hopeful to be fruitful in every investigation but all the Kristin Smart investigation."
Nearly 10 years ago, Deputy DA David Pomeroy prosecuted a no-body homicide -- a woman killed in Cayucos. Pomeroy used additional evidence found at the crime scene and the suspect’s admission helped paint the picture.
Even though finding Kristin is a priority, Dow said his team is prepared to try a case without a body.
"No-body cases are always challenging, but certainly as long as we have other evidence that points to manner and cause of death then it is possible to go forward and file a case,” Dow added.
The district attorney's office said it is working with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office on a daily basis. Both say they are working to bring justice to Kristin.
Dow added that the statute of limitations for crimes like kidnapping, rape and destruction of evidence have likely expired in the Smart case, but California law says there is no statute of limitations on murder. That also includes accessory to murder.