When Michelle Mueller heard Tuesday that a murder suspect had been arrested in connection to missing Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, the news hit close to home.
Mueller, a first-year student at the San Luis Obispo university, said that she knew she wanted to do something to honor Smart, who disappeared nearly 25 years ago.
So Mueller organized an impromptu candlelight vigil in Smart’s memory.
“We wanted to honor her and her legacy since it is strongly believed that she was murdered here,” Mueller said. “We all know about the whole story. … That could have been literally any single one of us — my friends, that could have been me.”
On Tuesday morning, investigators with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office arrested Paul Flores, the last person seen with Smart before she vanished in 1996, on suspicion of murder.
Flores lived in Santa Lucia Hall in the South Mountain on-campus housing complex during his time as a student at Cal Poly. That’s the same residence hall that Mueller now calls home.
Smart lived in Muir Hall, which is also part of South Mountain Residence Halls.
The candlelight vigil will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on the lawn next to Santa Lucia Hall. Mueller said anyone is welcome to attend, light a candle and bring flowers.
Only students are allowed inside the university’s residence halls, so the event will be held outside, Mueller said.
Smart, 19, was last seen Memorial Day weekend in 1996, leaving a house party at 135 Crandall Way near the Cal Poly campus at about 2 a.m. on May 25, 1996, with Flores and a friend.
The friend later told investigators that she left Smart with Flores at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Grand Avenue so that Smart could walk back to her Muir Hall dorm room.
Flores later told police the two parted ways near his room at Santa Lucia Hall.
On May 27, 1996, a friend of Smart’s at Muir Hall, reported Smart missing to the Cal Poly University Police Department.