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‘Our Hearts Are Still Sad’: Family of Man Who Disappeared 28 Years Ago Holding Out Hope for Justice

It has been almost three decades since a Southland man walked out of his home for a business meeting and never returned.

“Anniversaries, birthdays, the holidays, there’s always one person missing, and so they’re always difficult,” Teddie Smith, the victim’s sister, said. “Our hearts are still sad.”

That sadness became part of the Smith family’s life 28 years ago when Austin Jay Smith went missing.

“His life was good,” Smith said. “There was no reason to just walk out.”

The 23-year-old, who went by Jay, walked out of the El Monte home he shared with his mother on March 23, 1993. The aspiring accountant hasn’t been seen since.

Det. Richard Lopez, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Cold Case Unit took over Jay’s case in 2013. By that time, the missing person case had turned into a homicide investigation.

According to family members, Jay went to meet his former employer at Rosemead High School around 8:30 p.m. The man, a stage crew manager at the school’s auditorium, told Jay that he could borrow some equipment for the DJ work he did on the side to support his widowed mother.

Jay’s mother and girlfriend at the time said they were concerned about the meeting because he had a strained relationship with his former boss, so his girlfriend drove to the auditorium.

“While she was there, she noticed that Jay’s little 1992 Mazda pick-up truck was parked right next to the former employer’s truck, which had a camper,” Lopez said.

After a while, Jay’s girlfriend knocked on the door of the auditorium to check on him.

“The former employer denied her entrance and actually slammed the door in her face,” Lopez said.

The woman left the school, but when she drove past again — just after 11 p.m. — she noticed that the two vehicles were still there. When Jay didn’t come home, the search began.


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