Lambert shares his thoughts on the case and what is next for the podcast

PASO ROBLES — On Sat. Apr. 17 a candlelight vigil was held in the downtown Paso Robles City Park in honor of Kristin Smart. 

In May 1996, 19-year-old Kristin Smart, a Cal Poly freshman from Stockton, had vanished over the Memorial Day weekend. Over the years, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s department completed endless searches, countless interviews, investigated one lead after another, all with no prevail until last Tuesday when Justice for Kristin finally began with the arrest of Paul Flores for Kristin’s murder and his father Ruben Flores for accessory after the fact. 

Members of the community gathered around the park gazebo, where a gold hoop stood adorned with flowers in the center. “Justice for Kristin” banners were hung, and candles were available for the crowd. 

Trisha Butcher (left) and Robin Babb (right) photos by Rick Evans

Local resident Trish Butcher hosted the event. Special speakers included Carla Clawson Hoffman, a Smart family advocate, and “Find Kristin Smart,” social media administrator. Pascoe Bowen, a longtime activist for Kristin and former Cal Poly student along with Sandee Hunt-Burns, also an admin for the social media group and advocate for Kristin and her family, spoke on behalf of Rachel Bird, one of Kristin’s best friends. In coordination with the speakers, San Luis Obispo County sign-language interpreter Robin Babb translated the event. 

Chris Lambert, creator of the “Your Own Backyard” podcast, received a standing ovation from the crowd when he walked up to speak. 

In late September 2019, Lambert, a Santa Maria native, started looking into Smart’s disappearance. With the lack of information he found available on the case. He decided he wanted to tell Kristin’s story in a way that had never been done before. 

Chris Lambert

Through his podcast “Your Own Backyard,” Lambert walks through the details of the night Smart disappeared and the events that transpired in the years after. Local officials have credited Lambert for bringing renewed life to the case, which led to new leads and evidence.   

Lambert thanked everyone who has helped in bringing the Kristin Smart case to life. 

Paso Robles Press spoke with Lambert before the vigil about the case and his podcast. 

We asked Lambert if he ever thought the podcast would have this much effect on the Smart case, “In the beginning, I thought I would tell this story and then maybe something will come out of that, and then once people started coming out a speaking to me I thought I might have some interesting information here and maybe more than telling the story maybe I can move something forward.”

Lambert says that he has looked into other cases for future podcast seasons, but for right now, Kristin Smart is his main priority. 

“Right now, this is my focus–I’ve also become close to the family, I’ve become close with some people in the sheriff’s department, and it feels like seeing this one through to the end is the best thing to do,” said Lambert.

Lambert is currently working on a new episode of Your Own Backyard but does not have a release date yet. 

Numerous productions like Netflix have reached out to Lambert to turn his podcast into a series. 

However, Lambert is firm on moving forward with the story rather than focusing on what has already been covered in the podcast. He does believe there will be countless productions wanting to cover Smart’s story in the future. 

“I do enjoy it, but it’s also enormously exhausting, especially the emotional side of it. I get attached to people, and I make good friends with witnesses and people who come forward–everybody is emotional about this, and I’m right in the center of that sometimes,” said Lambert.

As the vigil continued and the sun started to set, the crowd that gathered together for Kristin lit the wicks on their candles in her memory. 

Later, to conclude the vigil, Athena Sorenson sang Amazing Grace while the crowd lit their candles for a moment of silence for Smart. 

John Segale, the spokesperson for the Smart family, released a statement on the family’s behalf.  

“While we are not able to join you for the candlelight vigil, we are with you all in spirit. Your love for Kristin and your unwavering support for our family for the past 25 years has been amazing and deeply appreciated. Many became involved more than two decades ago, like the relentless Dennis Mahon and our outstanding legal team, Jim and Garin Murphy and Mark Connelly. You all have filled our hearts, helped pick us up, and powered us forward to this point in time. The day of reckoning is coming, and soon we will all gather together to celebrate Justice for Kristin.”  

To read the most up-to-date details of the case and preliminary court hearings, visit atascaderonews.com

Getting through this together, Atascadero