Investigators searching for a California college student who disappeared in 1996 said Friday that they had excavated remains, but still needed to determine whether they were human.

Kristin Smart, 19, was last seen near her dormitory on the campus of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo on May 25, 1996. She was declared legally dead in 2002. 

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said Friday that FBI agents and local sheriff's deputies searched three hillside locations on the university's campus and found many "items of interest". Cipolla did not elaborate on what the items were.

The remains will be tested by forensic anthropologists at the FBI's headquarters in Quantico, Va., he said. 

A lead developed by investigators over the past two years "strongly suggested" that Smart's remains might be buried on the hillside near a large concrete letter "P'' that is the school's landmark, the Sheriff's Office announced when digging began Tuesday.

The three locations were then targeted with the use of dogs trained to detect old human remains.

The area was searched at the time of Smart's disappearance, along with most of the rest of the campus.

A male student, Paul Flores, told investigators at the time of Smart's disappearance that he had dropped her off at the dormitory following an off-campus party. Flores has never been arrested or charged in the case, but remains a "person of interest."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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