Confessed Killer Sent Emails to Victim's Family 'From Africa'

PHOTO: Christopher Smith

A California businessman who didn't want to pay his partner $1 million killed the partner instead and then posed as the victim to send the man's family emails claiming he had gone to Africa, police said.

Although the suspect has confessed to the killing, he is refusing to tell investigators what happened to the victim's body, authorities said.

Christopher Smith and Edward Shin were business partners who founded an advertising company together called 800xchange. A falling out between the two led to an agreement that Shin, 33, would buy out Smith's portion of the company for $1 million.

"Rather than paying $1 million, he killed him," Jim Amormino, the director of media relations for the Orange County Sheriff's office, told "The motive was purely financial gain."

Shin, a husband and father of three, was arrested on Sunday at the Los Angeles International Airport as he was boarding a flight to Canada.

A second man, Kenny Roy Kraft, was arrested on Monday as an accessory in the murder. Kraft was Shin's driver and personal assistant. He confessed to assisting Shin in disposing Smith's car, clothing and other personal belongings, but has pleaded not guilty, according to an Orange County news release.

Alleged Killer Confesses, Posed as Victim in Emails to Family: Cops

In a six-hour interview with authorities, Shin revealed that he killed Smith, 32, in June 2010. For the next seven months, Shin pretended to be a traveling Smith in emails sent to his family in Oregon.

"The victim had mentioned to family and friends that he wanted to travel around the world and go on an extensive trip," Amormino said. "Shin capitalized on that. He was definitely posing as the victim and trying to make them believe he was still alive."

The "dozens" of detailed emails recounted adventures in South Africa and plans to continue traveling. While police will not comment on the specifics of the emails, Amormino said that "something came out that didn't sound right" in the emails, which led Smith's family to hire private investigators.

"It wasn't the typical email [Smith] would send," Kravetz said at a news conference. "Different words, short, strange."

In December 2010, the emails suddenly stopped.

Police cannot comment on how far the private investigator got, but in April 2010, Smith's father Steven Smith, called the Laguna Beach Police Department to report his son as a missing person. An investigator began to follow up on the case.

"A few months into it, the investigator determined that Chris was more than likely murdered and then they found a crime scene," Lt. Jason Kravetz, spokesman for the Laguna Beach Police Department, told The crime scene was Smith and Shin's office in San Juan Capistrano.

The office has been "cleaned several times and painted and re-painted," Amormino said. "[Shin] made attempts to obviously conceal the blood, but, no matter how hard they tried, we found traces of blood."

DNA tests confirmed that the blood was Smith's. Soon, Shin was a suspect in the murder and under close surveillance for 11 days before his arrest.

Once Shin drove to the airport and police knew he was about to board a flight to another country, police arrested him. Police have not yet determined whether Shin was fleeing the country because he knew he was a suspect or whether he was traveling on business.

"He's a con man," Amormino said. "Once he was questioned, he confessed to most aspects, but not to where the body is."

Before Smith, Shin had been involved with similar financial schemes, police said.

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