Shy podcasters helped police crack California’s cold case

Los Angeles (AP) —Chris Lambert wants to go back to making music, but he can’t seem to stop chasing the ghosts that have plagued him for nearly 25 years.

A roadside sign on the Central Coast of California bypassed him three years ago from his career as a singer-songwriter and recording engineer. He created a podcast about the disappearance of freshman Christine Smart in 1996, which continues his life.

“I can’t get away from it for more than a few days,” Lambert said. “I want to solve things, so I’m sucked in right away.”

For someone who claims to be a shy “random boy with a beard,” it was an unlikely turn and produced results he never imagined.

On Tuesday, as Sheriff Ian Parkinson of San Luis Obispo County Announce arrestHe admitted that he helped Lambert get worldwide attention to the case and brought forward some important witnesses.

Longtime suspects Paul Flores and Smart were freshmen on the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo. According to prosecutors, Flores was charged with murdering a 19-year-old boy who tried to rape him in a dorm room.

His father, Ruben Flores, 80, was charged as an accessory after authorities said he helped hide a body he was never found.

Paul Flores’ lawyer refused to comment on the criminal accusation. Ruben Flores’ lawyer said his client was innocent.

Lambert is in the limelight for his arrest. His eight-part series ” Your own backyard, Was the second podcast on iTunes, recording 7.5 million downloads on Thursday. Lambert’s phone is exploding with messages from fans, tales and news reporters. He appreciates the attention, but is overwhelmed.

“It’s driving me crazy,” he said, yet he remained focused, patient and polite during the 45-minute interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Not all attention leads to money — Lambert does not advertise podcasts and relies on donations.

He is the latest in a series of criminal nonfiction podcasts that play a role in arrests, court appeals, and even immunity.

“Up and Vanished” made a man confess that he had killed the Queen of Georgia’s beauty contest, and “Serial” helped a convicted murderer win a new trial in Maryland. “In the Dark” unearthed new evidence in the case of the prosecutor’s resignation, instead of seeking a seventh trial against a Mississippi man who had spent decades in death row.

Lambert, 33, was only eight years old when Smart quickly disappeared from his home in the small town of O’Cat, about 140 miles (225 km) northwest of Los Angeles, to the beach. It scared him that someone went missing and no one knew what had happened.

For over 20 years, a sign with a grinning smart photo advertised a $ 75,000 reward. Located in the town of Arroyo Grande. Paul Flores grew up and his parents still live.

Lambert went through it many times, and eventually he was motivated to start an investigation.

“I wanted to give it a try and see if some people could talk to me,” Lambert said. Question. “

He bought some high quality recording equipment and started making phone calls. He said he found an overlooked or reluctant witness who had not spoken to the police.

People opened the door to Lambert, who advised them to contact investigators with relevant information. Congressmen began calling him to connect them with the people he interviewed.

“The fact that Chris was a podcast was announced nationwide to bring new information,” Parkinson said without elaborating on the new evidence. “It has produced some information that I believe is worth it.”

Susan Flores, a former colleague of Paul Flores’ mother, said Mrs. Flores got a job after Smart went missing on the 1996 Memorial Day weekend. Left in his car at night.

“There has been speculation that Paul called his father at midnight and helped him come and get rid of Christine’s body,” Lambert said.

A tenant who lived in Susan Flores’s house for a year said he heard a clock alarm every morning at 4:20 am. Smart was working as a lifeguard in Karpol pool at 5am, so he may have woken up his watch. Up at that early time.

“It’s like a moment in a podcast series that most people were completely upset about,” he said. “This may be part of the evidence that Christine was buried in the backyard, or that her belongings were buried in the backyard.”

Susan Flores, who hung up when called by the AP, told KSBY-TV in March in the only interview that “it can make many holes in many (Lambert’s) lies.” Told.

She said Lambert never contacted her. He sent an intermediary to her house, saying Susan Flores threatened to call the police. He said his efforts to talk to Paul Flores were also in vain.

Lambert spoke with a former Australian student at the University of California. He said he saw Flores and Smart struggling near where they were last seen. Lambert said investigators rejected the account early in the investigation.

Lambert built a close relationship with the smart family, who issued a statement after his arrest, praising his skills and “unselfish dedication.”

He is grateful that he has grown up close to his family. He feels like he knows Christine Smart, but I wish he had the opportunity to meet her.

“For most of my life, Christine Smart was the face of the sign,” he wrote on Instagram. “I learned about my daughter Christine, my sister Christine, my friend Christine, my neighbor, my roommate. Swimmer Christine. Dreamer Christine. And I learned that I sometimes miss people I couldn’t even meet. . “

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