KRISTIN Smart's friends and family are "praying for answers" as cops comp suspect Paul Flores' family home with cadaver dogs and ground penetrating radar.
Smart's grieving loved ones issued a statement after the San Luis Sheriff’s Office began to search the home of the "prime suspect's" father, Ruben Flores, on Monday – a probe which continued into Tuesday.
A judge allowed law enforcement to use dogs and ground-penetrating radar to execute the search linked to Smart, 19, who vanished on May 25, 1996, on her way home from a party outside of her campus.
Ann-Marie Christian McEntire – who described herself as a "childhood friend" of Smart – took to Facebook to issue an emotional statement as the extensive 25-year missing person investigation continued.
"I pray answers are forthcoming," she wrote. "It's been an emotional day, an emotional year, an emotional lifetime for her family and loved ones – longer than 19 year-old Kristin was alive on this earth."
McEntire described how she stopped by the elementary school she attended with Smart, which is where they first met, "grew up and played and laughed and met lifelong friends."
"Oh how my heart wanted to walk to the playground, to walk along the blacktop our 10 year old selves walked with classmates at such a young and carefree age," she recalled.
"When I finally turned to leave, the sun was in my eyes as I took these pictures of the clouds.
"They were so beautiful with the sun behind them I thought maybe I could capture a beautiful moment for her mom and dad. And maybe a beautiful moment for me, too."
Kristin's pal said she went through the pictures when she went home and "couldn't help but see something in those clouds."
"To my eyes, I see an angel flying overhead with her wings stretched out like a butterfly," she continued.
"Kristin, you are flying in the hearts of so many today and every day. We love you. We miss you. And we will never give up trying to find you and get justice for your family."
Yesterday, Smart’s family members said they were “encouraged” by the new search, which saw cops comb the Flores property with sniffer dogs and radar.
“We appreciate the vigilance and professionalism of Sheriff Ian Parkinson and his department, and our family looks forward to learning more in the hours and days ahead,” her relatives said in a statement.
Flores Jr was upgraded from a "person of interest" to the detectives' "prime suspect" this week.
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office Tony Cipolla said there were "no updates at this time" as of 12.30pm ET on Tuesday.
He declined to comment on what investigators found during their seven-day search of the property in 1996 or the more recent investigation, which is under seal.
"We are continuing to search the property of Ruben Flores," Cipolla told The Sun. "I am not able to comment on the search in 1996.
"We will not commenting any further on the search because the search warrant was sealed by the court."
When The Sun contacted a neighbor who lived nearby, they said: "No comment there" before hanging up.
Law enforcement officials used horses, radar and helicopters to search for Smart when she initially vanished. Her body was never recovered but she was declared deceased in 2002.
Federal investigators in 2016 dug on a hill near the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus searching for Smart’s remains and also looked at the yard of a home.
Paul, also a student at the time, was the last person spotted with Smart and has denied any wrongdoing in her case.
He was seen walking on a path to the dormitories the night that Smart vanished and was questioned about her whereabouts.
Paul was arrested in February on suspicion of being a felon possessing a firearm, after San Louis Obispo and Los Angeles county sheriff’s deputies searched his home in April.
Authorities in February also searched a house on the 900 block of West Upland Avenue and three more places in California and Washington state.
The searches are part of an effort to obtain DNA and other evidence that could lead to information on Smart’s mysterious disappearance, several sources told the Times.
Smart’s family sued Paul and he in turn invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in a civil deposition and before a grand jury.
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