Former California businessman Edward Shin was convicted of murdering his former business partner Christopher Smith and was later sentenced to life in prison. The case was featured on an episode of ABC’s 20/20, which is being rebroadcast tonight, August 7, 2020.
In the episode, ABC News chief national correspondent Matt Gutman sat down for a jailhouse interview with the convicted murderer in which he opens up about killing Cristopher Smith, his shady past, and why he has remained silent about the location of Chris Smith’s body.
The story is also told in 20/20’s podcast “Cutthroat Inc,” which is also hosted by Gutman.
According to Courthouse News, Smith was last seen alive on June 4, 2010. Afterward, family members began receiving emails from Chris’s account detailing a long vacation.
1. Shin Sent Emails Posing as Smith to Friends and Family For Months After His Death
According to GQ, Smith had always been interested in traveling the world, whether that meant he and his friends going together to Tahiti and surfing or buying a farm in Costa Rica, and when he went missing, his family thought he was living out that dream due to emails that they began receiving.
The first message arrived in June 2010 and said that Smith was cashing out on his company that he started with Ed Shin and chartering a 45-foot-yacht to travel to South America with a Playboy Playmate he’d met in Las Vegas.
On July 10, his parents received an email saying that he had visited the Galapagos, Peru and Chile. He said he had plans to visit 25 more islands and said he might not ever come back, though the email added, “HA. Just kidding.”
Then, the messages turned darker and Smith talked about having suicidal thoughts and said he was taking drugs.
“It felt like he was going off the deep end,” Paul Smith, Chris’s brother, told GQ. “Something was very wrong.”
2. Investigators Found that All The Emails Were Sent From Inside the United States
The emails stopped in December 2010. The last email received talked of selling Krugerrands, a South African gold coin.
“I’m headed back up through the Congo,” the email read. “I found a dealer in Rwanda that will pay 30 percent markup on krug’s.”
In early 2011, the Smiths filed a missing persons report with police in Laguna Beach, California and launched their own investigation. They brought in a computer expert to analyze the data in the emails. The expert found that all of the messages had been sent from the United States, which didn’t match up with the story of Smith traveling the world.
3. Blood Found at His Office Matched Smith
Ed Shin abandoned the 800Xchange office in January 2011, allegedly still owing the landlord thousands of dollars in rent. The owner asked a private investigator named Joe Dalu to help him find Shin and Smith so they could possibly get their money.
When Dalu walked in, he and his partner Chris Heuberger found small, dark stains that looked like blood located around the door jamb and light switches. They tipped off the Laguna Beach Police as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who searched the office and found blood in those areas as well as in the break room, hallways, on Chris’s office door and inside and outside his office.
Investigators then performed forensic tests at the office, and they found large amounts of blood that former Orange County Senior District Attorney Matt Murphy compared to “helter-skelter.” A few months later, the DNA was matched to Chris Smith.
4. Shin Confessed to Accidentally Killing Smith
When he was first questioned by police, Ed Shin said that Smith was on a trip around the world and the two had signed the papers on Friday, June 4.
Later, Shin confessed to accidentally killing his former business partner but denies the idea that he tried to intentionally murder him in the office of the business the two shared. He said that Smith fell and accidentally hit his head on a desk, which caused the fatal injury. Murphy said that was a lie.
Shin was allegedly in a bad spot with money prior to the murder. In May 2010, he agreed to pay $800,000 to settle a civil case against him from LG Technologies, but he needed a sign-off from Smith to have access to the funds. Authorities also believed that Shin had been racking up gambling debts in Las Vegas.
“Ed Shin was in a corner,” Murphy said. “The way he could solve his problems, financially, business-wise, everything else, is murder Chris Smith, make him disappear and take all of his money.”
5. Christopher Smith’s Body Has Never Been Found
In the jailhouse interview with 20/20, Shin insisted he did not know where Smiths’ body was and said he could not provide more details.
“I can’t talk about that… because I don’t know,” he said on 20/20. “There is no way I can get into that at this point… I wish I could tell you more, but there’s something bigger that I just can’t talk about.”
He told police and testified at the trial that he paid an Eastern European man thousands of dollars to dispose of Smith’s body, but he said that he could not identify the man because he never asked for his name.
Investigators believe based on evidence from Smith’s Range Rover and Shin’s cellphone records that Smith drove the body out to the desert and left it there, but Shin said that evidence actually points to him driving to Mexico to flee and not getting rid of a body.
In December 2018, Shin was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.