Remains were unearthed at a California college during the search for a student missing for more than 20 years who had last been seen alive on the campus, authorities said.
FBI agents and local sheriff’s deputies conducting a three-day excavation on the campus of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo found “various items of interest,” including remains, at the three hillside locations they searched, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office said.
But it may take months to determine if the remains found are human or if they belong to Kristin Smart, a 19-year-old woman who vanished from the campus, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, officials said.
A male student told authorities he dropped Smart off near her dormitory after an off-campus party about 2 a.m. May 25, 1996. That was the last time she was seen alive.
“Kristin did not return to her room and has not contacted family or friends since that time. She did not have any identification, money, or extra clothing when she disappeared,” the FBI said in a statement.
That man is considered a person of interest but has never been arrested or charged, authorities said.
A lead developed by investigators over the past two years “strongly suggested” that Smart’s remains could be buried on the hillside near the Cal Poly “P” landmark, the Sheriff’s Office said when digging began on Tuesday.
The area was searched at the time of Smart’s disappearance, along with most of the rest of the campus, the Associated Press reported.
The remains will be tested by forensic anthropologists at the FBI’s headquarters in Quantico, Virginia.
“While the Sheriff’s Office is hopeful these findings will be beneficial to the investigation, we urge the public to be patient throughout this process,” the Sheriff’s Office said.