True Crime Podcast
The Disappearance of Kristin Smart
Much of the story has potential triggering details, so proceed with caution if needed.
While Your Own Backyard debuted its first episode back in 2019 and spanned into 2020, the true crime podcast is currently ranking atop the podcast charts, at the time this article was published, undoubtedly due to recent bombshell developments including an arrest.
In Episode 1-A Face on a Billboard, Lambert journeys to Stockton, California to begin the story with Kristin’s parents, Stan and Denise Smart.
Along the way up to see the Smarts, Lambert stops in San Luis Obispo to visit Kristin’s college campus, where she disappeared over 30 years ago.
Lambert does a good job of establishing an atmosphere in each episode while also explaining his connection to the story.
I particularly like when a podcaster takes the time to do this.
I believe such details help pull the listener in and firmly imbed them in the tale.
As he shares his experience during the podcast, Your Own Backyard, Lambert talks about his growing up in a town near Kristin’s hometown and how her disappearance affected him and his life as a second-grader at the time.
The listener clearly understands his connection to the story he is telling.
A Promising Young Woman
Almost 25 years ago on May 26, 1996, a beautiful young woman named Kristin Denise Smart went missing.
Throughout Your Own Backyard, Lambert suspects and puts forward well-known evidence that Paul Ruben Flores abducted Kristin at 2 AM on the Cal Poly Campus where she was attended her first semester of college, where Flores was also attending school.
This is the moment the painful nightmare of being the mother and father to a missing daughter began for the Smart family.
The oldest of three children born to Stan and Denise Smart, Kristin was known for taking on adventures.
She participated in two study abroad programs, one in London and one in Venezuela before her senior year of high school.
The Venezuela semester was to help her perfect her Spanish.
As Lambert begins his investigation through this true crime podcast, he presents Kristin Smart as a normal young woman, away at college and on her own for the first time.
Many of us have had our own similar experiences during the first semester of college or the first time living away from our parents.
Lambert does an expert job of painting being on your own as a young adult.
His well-crafted words show how this time in our lives can be overwhelming because you now have to learn how to discipline yourself and balance your life.
Kristin was learning that and had had some struggles, not unlike her peers.
Kristin, also, like many her age, was waffling about her major and the school she was attending, California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo.
When you are in your late teens and early twenties these ambivalent feelings about the direction of your life can easily become overblown.
Kristin wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue at Cal Poly or move back to Hawaii where she had done an internship as a lifeguard and camp counselor the summer before.
Kristin considered that Hawaii summer employment her dream job.
Stan and Denise Smart were trying to avoid being helicopter parents by giving Kristin the space to make her own decisions.
However, if need be, they would give Kristin a little tough love to help her refocus.
Sound familiar? I can fully relate to where Kristin was emotionally at that time in her life.
Imagine the reaction of Susan Flores, the mother of Paul Flores, when an FBI and sheriff’s team knock on her door early June 19, 2000, with a search warrant.
They were at her house looking for evidence regarding the disappearance and probable murder of Kristin Smart committed, allegedly, by Paul Flores.
Paul had already admitted to being the last person with Kristin the night she disappeared.
He had also told 3-conflicting stories about the night of May 25, 1996, and into May 26, 1996. He even lied about how he had received a black eye and injuries to his knees and hands the same weekend that Kristin vanished.
Paul Flores appears to be that man that everyone just tolerates.
He is the man on the edge of the work clique that gives women “the creeps” and who women warn other women about.
He did not read social clues well and racked up several DUIs.
While drinking he was known to be aggressive.
Paul dated a girlfriend after Kristin’s disappearance who later stated to Lambert that while Paul seemed nice in the beginning, he was odd and later became physically aggressive.
She also talked about how secretive Paul’s family was and that Paul always seemed on the verge of a confession.
Cadaver dogs with a search team in Paul’s dorm room had alerted on several spots indicating evidence of human decomposition.
There were over 600 students who had access to that dorm facility and Paul Flores’ room was the only one where the cadaver dogs alerted.
The Flores family was further implicated in Kristin’s disappearance when a deposed neighbor stated that shortly after Kristin went missing, Paul and his father, Ruben, were seen doing extensive construction in the backyard of Susan’s home.
Included in the yard work was the addition of a 6-foot concrete planter box and lots of new lattices.
Susan Flores, later in 1996, rented the house to the Lassiter family and Joe Lassiter stated during a deposition that he could never get flowers or other plants to grow in one of the large planter boxes because the soil only went 6-inches deep before hitting another layer of concrete.
That gave me chills!
As a true crime podcast, that detail ramped up the horror level a hundredfold for me.
Well done, Chris Lambert.
The Lassiters also reported finding an earring with a red smudge and different cadaver dogs alerted on the property’s trash cans.
Lastly, a garage was built in an odd place at the property that never seemed to serve as a car garage and blocked easy access to the backyard.
When a ground-penetrating radar team in 1997 went over the yard, the garage and all the junk in the yard became an obstacle that prevented an adequate assessment.
Despite the lack of access, many of the areas scanned with radar did show anomalies.
The affidavit issuing the warrant had given all of these reasons to conduct a full search of Susan Flores’ residence and yard.
However, the team left without digging at the site even though they had probable cause.
Once they left, the warrant expired.
Local law enforcement had already “lost” the earring found in 1996 and the Smart family were told that the GPR results were inconclusive.
The Smarts were continuing to be victims of not only Kristin’s loss but the apparent ineptitude of local police agencies.
The Man Who Wouldn’t Let Go – Dennis Mahon
The last detail from Lambert’s acclaimed true crime podcast I will review is the involvement of a man from North Carolina, with no direct connection, who was determined to keep Kristin’s story alive.
His primary goal, it seems, was to keep pressure on the Flores family.
He may have even gone a little too far.
During a celebration of life for Kristin in May 2001, the sheriff told those attending that the investigation was alive and would stay alive.
Lambert shares his frustration at how the investigation continued to stall and, at the time of his podcast, there had still been no arrests and none seemed to be on the horizon.
Then 9-11 takes over the news around the world.
While watching the events of 9-11 unfold, a 41-year old, 6’5″ healthcare worker, Dennis Mahon, was in North Carolina planning to take a fully loaded work van across the country to San Francisco to look for another missing Kristin, with the backing of his employer.
Mahon was not law enforcement, not a journalist, and not an investigator.
By chance, the mother of one Kristin introduced him to Denise Smart.
He then began looking for both Kristins.
In Kristin Smart’s case, the first contact he attempted was with Paul Flores.
Mahon goes to the Flores house, knocks on the door, and asks for Paul.
Paul’s sister Ermalinda, tells Mahon that Paul is not home and demands Dennis to leave.
Dennis instead sat on the Flores family porch and spied Paul approaching on a bicycle.
As Paul approached the porch, Ermalinda pulled Paul into the house.
The cops soon arrived and demanded that Mahon exit the property, immediately.
This began the lengthy period of Mahon’s “stalking” of the Flores family.
He intended to apply continuous pressure.
Dennis Mahon gets a job at Domino’s near the Cal Poly campus and started asking all the local students he worked with and encountered on pizza deliveries if they know the Kristin Smart case.
He then launched a website called Son of Susan.com to which he added numerous photos of the Flores family, again, to increase pressure on the Flores family.
The Flores family eventually filed for a restraining order against Mahon in 2002 which was granted and Mahon is ordered to stay 50-yards away from all immediate Flores family members.
A member of law enforcement, Detective Bolt, also found Mahon’s activities to be annoying.
The students at Cal Poly, where Mahon would parade with a poster saying, “Dig Up Susan Flores’ Yard”, found Dennis to be odd and concerning.
Whatever Mahon’s intentions, his website, his Facebook group, and his odd campaign at Cal Poly did create pressure and got noticed.
Unfortunately, this pressure also had unintentional consequences for the Smart family when they were dragged into a lawsuit filed against them by the Flores family.
Lambert is on the fence about Mahon’s actions ultimately deciding that your reaction would probably depend if you were part of the victim’s family or the accused.
Why You Should Listen
True crime podcasts are not all created equal.
Much depends on the quality of the presenter and the caliber of their investigation and delivery.
Your Own Backyard’s Chris Lambert is not only an excellent investigator, but he is also a strong presenter.
His insights are strong and his demeanor is always appropriate.
This is a podcast worth the time. It can serve as the perfect companion to the recent and major news surrounding the arrest of Paul Flores.
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