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OC man caught at LAX confesses to business partner's murder

August 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Irvine man was arrested boarding a flight to Canada, suspected of killing his business partner, then covering up his death for months. He later confessed to the murder, but the victim's body has not been found.

Christopher Smith, 32, disappeared a year ago, around the time authorities allege his business partner Edward Shin was expected to pay him a million dollars for his share of the business 800 Exchange, a San Juan Capistrano company they founded to develop media leads for advertising. Smith wanted out of the business.

"The office shared by Shin and Smith contained blood evidence that was confirmed through DNA to be that of Christopher Smith," said Orange County Assistant Sheriff Mark Billings.

Smith's body has never been found. Authorities say his family did not report him missing until a few months ago.

"Mr. Shin went to great lengths to attempt to conceal the crime scene and Smith's murder. Shin had the office where the murder occurred extensively cleaned and repainted," said Billings.

"Mr. Shin did admit to sending some emails pretending to be Mr. Smith to the family and it lasted for a while, but they became suspicious of the emails," said Orange County Sheriff's Investigator Don Voght.

Smith's family hired a private investigator.

Some neighboring businesses knew something was wrong before that.

"They had outstanding rent bills, phone bills," said neighbor Robyn Webb.

Documents show Shin was convicted of embezzlement last year involving a different company in Riverside County and ordered to pay $700,000.

In Smith's case, authorities found his vehicle in San Jose last weekend.

Authorities arrested Shin Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Canada.

"Mr. Shin confessed to murdering Mr. Smith at their office in San Juan Capistrano in June 2010 for purposes of financial gain," said Billings.

"It's a very unnerving feeling to know that that evil exists, especially if it was done because of a financial reason or a financial gain," said Webb. "I feel horrible for his family."

The body of Christopher Smith has not been found.

Anyone with information on the case is urged to call Orange County Sheriff's Department investigators at (714) 647-7048.

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