Listen to the podcast that reopened the 25-year cold case of Kristin Smart’s disappearance in ‘Your Own Backyard’
For 24 years, Kristin Smart’s disappearance looked as though it might never be solved. The 19-year-old Cal Poly student disappeared on May 25, 1996 after leaving a party just off the college’s campus. For two decades, not a single useful lead was found, nor was her body. And this always haunted Chris Lambert.
For years, he drove by the billboard in Arroyo Grande that had Kristin’s face on it, along with the message of a $75,000 reward. In 2019, Chris decided to take matters into his own hands and dig into (and reignite the interest in) Kristin Smart’s disappearance in “Your Own Backyard.”
Chris Lambert released the first episode of “Your Own Backyard” in September of 2019. We aren’t entirely sure how long the podcast was originally intended to be, but now, the podcast has gone on to be 10 episodes, each about an hour long. And, to Chris’ shock, those final episodes came much sooner than he ever could have predicted.
Chris grew up not far from San Luis Obispo, the idyllic oceanside town in California’s Central Coast where Cal Poly’s campus stands. He was just 8 years old in 1996 when Kristin disappeared, the news dominating the headlines for the months between O.J. Simpson’s trial and JonBenét Ramsey’s murder.
He realized that while he drove past that billboard with Kristin’s face, the reward, and a phone number that he knew truly nothing about her. And speaking with friends and family made him realize that they didn’t either. While her name rings a bell for most people, many confuse her with Elizabeth Smart, the 14-year-old who was kidnapped and then safely reunited with her family in the early 2000s, and many others thought that Kristin’s body had actually been found.
So, he dug in. For years, he researched Kristin, her life, and her final known whereabouts in the pursuit of justice. Originally, “Your Own Backyard” was intended to be just eight episodes where he spoke to Kristin’s still-mourning family and friends. He re-examined the case with the lead detective and retraced Kristin’s final steps, along with the steps of the last person to have seen her alive, fellow student, and prime suspect, Paul Flores.
Well, “Your Own Backyard” went above and beyond what Chris Lambert and the Smart’s ever could have expected. It garnered national attention and has been downloaded over 10 million times. It also sparked renewed interest in the case.
And in not-really-a-spoiler-since-this-is-real-life news, this podcast actually did what true crime podcasters can only hope to do: help solve the case. On the day of the arrest of Paul Flores in April 2021, Sheriff Ian Parkinson credited Chris for inspiring new witnesses to come forward with information and renewing interest in the case. While the trial is still ongoing, and no guilty nor not guilty verdict has been passed down, “Your Own Backyard” actually helped get this two-decade-long cold case of the disappearance and presumed murder of Kristin Smart into court.
In October 2022, Paul Flores was found guilty of murdering Kristen. Ruben Flores, 81, was found not guilty of helping to hide the body.
“Your Own Backyard” is tragic, inspiring, and most of all, it’s deeply compassionate. Not only did Chris do an excellent job with the production of this podcast, but he undoubtedly did all of his (and every other investigator’s) research in order to bring justice to Kristin Smart.
Respectful, compelling, and instigating of real change, “Your Own Backyard” is one of the most beloved true crime podcasts out there for a reason. And since the trials of Paul Flores and his father Ruben Flores have been delayed to a future date, we’re feeling confident that this podcast will see updates around then.