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Kristin Smart Case Cracked Thanks to Shy Podcaster

Chris Lambert spoke to overlooked witnesses on 'Your Own Backyard'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2021 10:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – Chris Lambert would like to get back to making music but he can't seem to stop chasing a ghost that has haunted him for nearly 25 years. A billboard on the side of the road on California's Central Coast led him on a detour three years ago from his career as a singer-songwriter and recording engineer, per the AP. The self-described shy, "random boy with a beard" created a podcast about the 1996 disappearance of college freshman Kristin Smart and it's taken over his life—particularly following Tuesday's news. As San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson announced the arrests of longtime suspect Paul Flores and his father, Ruben Flores, he credited Lambert with helping draw worldwide attention to the case and bringing forward key witnesses. Lambert's eight-part series, "Your Own Backyard," hit 7.5 million downloads Thursday and was the No. 2 podcast on iTunes.

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Lambert, 33, was just 8 when Smart vanished a short drive up the coast from his home in Orcutt. For more than two decades, a billboard in a nearby town featured a photo of Smart and it ultimately motivated Lambert to start investigating. He bought some high-quality recording equipment and began making calls, finding overlooked or reluctant witnesses who hadn't spoken with police, he said. A former student at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo told Lambert that he saw Flores and Smart struggling near where Smart was last seen, while a former colleague of Flores' mother described hearing how her husband had received a call in the middle of the night after Smart went missing, then left in his car. Police believe Paul Flores killed Smart in his dorm room and his father helped him hide the body. Parkinson said Lambert's podcast produced "some information that I believe was valuable."

(Read more Kristin Smart stories.)

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