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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Two Important Rememberances on May 20th

This week my posting has been slow on here. I've had a few things going on that demanded my time and I just couldn't devote as much time to the blog as I should.

This past Saturday, May 20th, there were two important events held on separate parts of the United States for two ladies who remain missing. The first was Kristin Smart whose family held a special run/walk in her honor. On May 25th, Kristin will be missing for 10 long years. The run was to bring awareness to her case and to possibly help bring that one tip that can lead authorities to her.

My group was unable to go this year due to some other obligations that we had. I knew that we had to do something to remember Kristin as well as Brandy Hanna whose family held a special vigil for her Saturday night in Charleston, South Carolina.

Brandy's mom has become one of my favorite people. I met her briefly at the Cue Center for the Missing Conference back in late March, but we've communicated a lot online since then. I felt terrible that I could not go to the one year vigil for Brandy. Donna has searched endlessly for her daughter since she vanished last year. She's also started working with other moms to help them cope with the situation of losing your child.

My family decided that we would release some balloons for both the missing ladies to remember them here where we live. We walked out to the garden and let the blue balloon with a special note for Brandy float into the sky. Next we released the 10 mult-colored balloons for Kristin Smart. We do this frequently when we cannot be at these important vigils or events for those who are missing or murdered. Although it's a small gesture, it makes me feel better knowing we did something to remember these people.

May God bless each of them and help them through this tough time they are going through. Hopefully soon, they will have the answers they need.

Additonal Links

Find Kristin Smart - Son of Susan
Missing Brandy Hanna

News Article Regarding Kristin Smart

Questions remain unanswered in Smart case
By Quintin Cushner/Senior Staff Writer
- Santa Maria Times

Ten years after Kristin Smart's disappearance, no one surrounding her case has felt anything near closure.
Not Smart's family, who remember her as a loving and persistent 19-year-old, excited to be attending college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. They assume she is dead and buried somewhere, but cannot be certain.
Not Paul Flores, a 1995 graduate of Arroyo Grande High School, who was the last person to see the young woman alive and who remains under investigation in her disappearance. Flores is out on bail facing a fourth drunken-driving conviction and continued scrutiny for his actions the night Smart vanished.
Not detectives from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department, who still believe they can crack the case.
And not Dennis Mahon or Terry Black, two men working to keep the Kristin Smart case from fading. Mahon maintains a Web site and has written a book. Black is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone with information leading to Smart.
Each of these lives was altered early on May 25, 1996, after Flores walked with Smart and another student from an off-campus party onto campus.
Flores and Smart apparently met at the party, where both had been drinking. The third student broke off from Flores and Smart about 2:30 a.m.

Flores, then 19, told law enforcement he and Smart parted ways near his dorm, and that she returned to her Muir Hall dorm room alone.
Police say there's no proof Smart ever returned to her room. Her roommate reported her missing May 27. Smart's clothing, toiletries and identification were undisturbed.
Cal Poly police first interviewed Flores on May 28. He sported a black eye from what he claimed was a basketball mishap. A friend of Flores later told police the young man had arrived at the pick-up game bruised.Campus police appear to have made a crucial mistake early in the investigation. Officers failed to secure Flores' room at Santa Lucia Hall until after he vacated the dorm for the term.The Kristin Smart case was soon after turned over to the Sheriff's Department.More than a month after Smart's disappearance, cadaver dogs searching the dorm honed in on Flores' room. Once inside, the dogs zeroed in on his mattress.During a grand jury hearing convened in October 1996, Flores refused to answer questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He has never been charged in the young woman's disappearance.Later searches of Flores' family home in Arroyo Grande turned up nothing substantial. Psychics, national talk show hosts and local media all tried in vain to discern Smart's location.San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Roger Piquet later declared Smart dead as of May 25, 2001, so her family could pursue a wrongful-death lawsuit against Flores.SuspectThat civil case, which alleges “Flores violently assaulted and murdered Decedent Kristin Smart and disposed of her body in an unknown location, presumably in San Luis Obispo,” returns to court June 9.The civil suit has been repeatedly delayed since the Smart family filed it in 2002. The Sheriff's Department still considers its investigation open, and has refused to release any evidence to the Smarts' attorneys.Denise Smart, Kristin's mother, said she has mixed feelings about the criminal case staying open.“As long as it's still open, there's hope,” she said. “But I'm frustrated by the lack of progress.”An educator living in Stockton, Denise Smart said the slow reaction from Cal Poly police damaged the case.“It was way over their head,” she said. “When Kristin's roommate reported her missing, they didn't even go check on her. It was a total failure to respond.”In 1998, Gov. Pete Wilson signed a state law named after Smart, requiring universities and colleges to notify local law enforcement quickly if a violent crime may have occurred.“I know that members of the Smart family have complained that our police did not respond properly,” said Cal Poly Provost Bob Detweiler. “I wasn't here at the time, but I can find no evidence of us handling the case inappropriately. Because of Kristin's disappearance, we have beefed up our emphasis on alcohol awareness and sexual assault awareness on campus.”Since they took over the case, sheriff's deputies have focused on Flores, who is now a 29-year-old living in Lawndale in Los Angeles County.“Paul Flores is the only person of interest that we have not excluded as a possible suspect,” said Undersheriff Steve Bolts. “We've got several avenues we're pursuing that I can't really discuss. The case remains very active.”Bolts said Detective Dave Kenny is spending the majority of his time working on the Smart case. Kenny declined comment.Bolts had no estimate of how many hours have been spent on the case.“It's one of those cases that has the potential to be resolved,” Bolts said. “We are reasonably certain that she's deceased, and we're optimistic that her remains will be found some day.”Bolts would not comment on a specific theory about Smart's disappearance.“There's no evidence to exclude an intentional homicide,” he said.Since Smart went missing, Flores has racked up three drunken-driving convictions and a probation violation. Flores served time in 2000 at Santa Barbara County Jail for driving drunk in Santa Maria, and was sentenced again to County Jail for drinking while on probation.On Dec. 20, 2005, he was again flagged for drunken driving, this time in Los Angeles County. He is free on $100,000 bail while the case works its way through the courts.Flores could face prison time if convicted, said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Paulette Paccione. The case returns to court June 29 for a preliminary hearing.Flores has rejected a plea deal in the latest drunken-driving charge that would have landed him in jail for a year, Paccione said.“He wants to fight the case,” she said.Bolts has several theories on Flores' battles with alcohol.“I think it's reflective of a chemical dependency that may be at the root of Kristin's disappearance,” Bolts said. “It also may be a product of a guilty conscience.”Denise Smart said Flores has negotiated in the past with law enforcement. She is certain Flores knows her daughter's whereabouts.“Do we know what he did? No. Do we know he knows where she is? Yes,” Denise Smart said. “He's kind of making his own prison. But for us there's no punishment we feel would be enough. Where she is is not where she wants to be and it's certainly not where we would want her to be.”Bolts wouldn't comment on any negotiations between law enforcement and Flores.“Even if there were negotiations,” he said, “they are privileged and are not presumed by us to be evidence.”Attempts to reach Flores were unsuccessful. Calls to his criminal and civil attorneys were not returned. His parents, Susan and Ruben, have separated and live in Arroyo Grande.Outside both of their homes is a printed flier with this message:“Notice: Please respect the privacy of the occupants of this residence. They have chosen to resolve their legal matters in the courtroom, not the media.”A man who emerged from Susan Flores' home last week snapped several pictures of a visiting reporter, but declined comment.The activistsDennis Mahon of Charlotte, N.C., has spent years tracking the case. Mahon's Web site,, includes his short book on Smart's disappearance and a log of Flores' legal troubles.Mahon used to park outside the Flores' home in Arroyo Grande and took to photographing Paul Flores during his court appearances.For his diligence, Denise Smart considers Mahon “a saint.”The Flores family sees it different. They have a restraining order against him.“It's a matter of not abandoning Kristin,” Mahon said. “My Web site is geared toward getting Flores to cooperate with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department. The crime is in the cover-up.”Terry Black, a Sacramento investor and political consultant, recently offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the location of the missing woman or her remains.Black, who believes Smart's body could be buried on the Nipomo Mesa, said he has provided police several tips received through his hotline.“I just would like to see closure to the family, and sometimes money is the only thing that motivates people to come forward,” Black said. “My sole concern is retrieval of the body. I'm not in the blame or punishment role here.”PersistenceDenise Smart remembers her daughter's persistence and discipline above all else.An avid swimmer who stood more than 6 feet tall, Smart cared deeply about her health, Denise Smart said.“Before it was cool to be fit, she exercised and watched what she ate,” Denise Smart said. “She never had egg yolks.”The young woman loved Hawaii and even managed to graduate high school early to work as a camp counselor there.Originally accepted at UCSB, Smart decided to switch schools shortly before her freshman year. The prospect of transferring from her communications program into Cal Poly's elite architecture school was a lure.Denise Smart said her daughter also would have been content to work in TV.“She thought Joan Lunden had just about the best job in the world,” Denise Smart said.Ten years later, Denise Smart is still acutely aware of how her daughter's life was cut short.“She was a very loving and compassionate type of person, and it's hard to have lost her,” Denise Smart said. “Her friends are now getting married and having children.”Matt Smart was just 16 when his sister disappeared.“In a moment, your life is turned upside down,” he said. “You go from watching the news on TV to being on the news. From reading the newspapers to being in the newspapers.”His sister's disappearance inspired him to take life seriously at a young age, he said. Matt Smart threw himself into swimming competitions, eventually making it to the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials.Now a pharmaceutical representative, he tries to live well every day. Still, his sister's disappearance lingers.“It's one thing to have a death in the family,” he said. “It's another thing to not know what happened. You can't allow it to eat at you.”Tana Coates, attorney for the Smart family, said she is heartened that police continue to investigate.“I'm sure Denise thinks of this as if it were yesterday,” Coates said. “It's so important to keep the public's interest. It's a terrible mystery. The family would appreciate closure. Let's hope that happens.”Kristin Smart would have turned 29 this past February.

ArtiBrandy Hanna News cle

Daughter's Disappearance An Open Wound
By Brian Hicks - Charleston Dot Net

It has been a year, and still she cannot sleep.Her life has become one long nightmare, a hunt that never ceases. Everywhere she looks, Donna Parent sees her daughter - on the street, in the store. She has to force herself not to follow every passing car with a thin blond woman inside.It's not her, she constantly has to tell herself.The restaurant she manages has become a shrine of missing person posters and well-wishers who come in to eat every day. A year later, and the Alex's Restaurant's reader board still asks 'Where is Brandy?'After work, Parent spends much of her time on the computer, reading about and corresponding with people who are just like her, who have lost someone without a notion of when they may find out what happened. Like her, they try to avoid the unthinkable: that they may never know. So many people out there like her, she realizes with great sadness.Every night as she lies down to attempt sleep, Donna Parent looks at her daughter's picture and asks the same question:Where are you?On Saturday night, nearly 100 people gathered at Alex's Restaurant on Dorchester Road to mark the one-year anniversary of Brandy Hanna's disappearance with prayer and a candlelight vigil. On May 20, 2005, Hanna, then 32, got off from work there on a Friday afternoon with big plans for the weekend.She caught a ride home with a customer and made plans to go shopping that night, to be ready for a trip to the beach. She spoke with her mother once more on the phone. And then nothing.All leads in the case have proven dead ends. The few suspects brought in passed polygraph tests, leaving police stumped. Every day more time passes without answers, without clues.One year later, and all of the sudden Brandy's disappearance is a cold case.'This is a situation that a year ago I never thought I would be in,' Parent says. 'I can't stop looking, because if I stop, who's going to look for her?'Parent has become disillusioned about a lot of things. Mostly, she is upset that no one has found her daughter. When she first reported her missing, it was nearly a week before police would investigate, because adults have a right to be missing.Police departments across the country say they cannot investigate every call that comes in on a missing adult - they would get little else done.There are nearly 2 million people missing in the United States right now, about half of them adults. While there are networks and agencies and Amber Alerts for children who go missing, there is no mechanism ? save for dozens of networks that exist on the Internet and in the kitchens of people who have suffered loss ? to hunt for adults who disappear.'Adult missing person cases are hard. You have the right to be missing, a right to privacy,' says Monica Caison, the founder and executive director of the CUE Center, a missing persons organization in North Carolina. 'I've heard police say they don't want another Runaway Bride story. We've got to stop judging people, and listen when families say someone is missing. If they turn up on a beach drinking pina coladas, so what? Let it embarrass them.'Caison says that if police had looked quicker at Brandy Hanna's last-known whereabouts, they might have turned up a clue. But in this case, there are no guarantees. Because, unfortunately, hers was a trail that went cold fast.North Charleston Detective Eric Jourdan said there has been no new information in Brandy's case since last August, when Caison brought search teams and cadaver dogs to town to search several areas. Police followed up on a few leads from those searches, but they were all dead ends.'What's most frustrating is that she had such a close circle of friends, only four or five people she associated with, and none of them could think of any reason she would want to disappear on her own,' Jourdan says.A boyfriend, as well as a recent ex-boyfriend, were considered possible suspects, but both submitted to polygraph tests and passed. Since then, one of them, Ray McAdams, has died of natural causes.'I check Brandy's Web site all the time, looking for anonymous tips, and I check into all unidentified bodies found in the state,' Jourdan says. 'But there's not a lot we can do without some sort of clue.'Parent has pushed the city to do more, and in February got Mayor Keith Summey to agree to put up billboards with Brandy's face, asking for information in her disappearance.Parent is upset those billboards have not gone up, but Summey said he's at the mercy of charity. MAC Advertising has agreed to put up a city-designed Brandy billboard starting June 1. They will leave it up all summer, moving it to a new location every month.'We've been working with MAC, but we've had to wait until they had space available,' Summey said.On Saturday night, Parent set up a table with Brandy's pictures - as a baby, in the ROTC, at work at Alex's - and the vigil attendees signed the guest book with notes such as, 'We all pray for your safety' and 'You are and always will be my best friend.'Cindy Cornell, who worked with Brandy at Pappy's in North Charleston, said when she first heard the news, she assumed her friend had 'just gone off somewhere.''I hope that's right, I hope she's off somewhere,' Cornell said. 'I just hopes she comes back.'As the people crowded around the shrine to Brandy began to light their candles, a mighty wind blew up where moments before it had been calm. For several minutes, they tried in vain to light a few flames to Brandy's memory on the anniversary of her disappearance.Eventually, Parent said it was no use and asked them to simply hold the candles high above their heads for a moment. There would be no candlelight at this vigil.It was a disappointment for sure, but Parent has had many of them in the past year. This was a small problem, she knows. There is a much bigger one out there, one that has been looming over her entire life for a year now.§ion=localnews


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