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

Alleged killer posed as Christopher Smith in emails to Smith's family.

Sept. 1, 2011 — -- 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.

Alleged Killer Confesses, But Won't Say Where the Body Is

Last year, Shin was convicted of embezzlement in relation to a company in Riverside County. He was on probation and ordered to pay $700,000, according to police.

Another man who claimed to be a prior victim and business partner of Shin's, attended the first part of his arraignment this week.

The man, who would only be identified as "Brian," spoke exclusively with ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate KABC. He claimed that Shin stole up to $500,000 from him after they became partners in a mortgage business called Residential Finance America in 2003.

"Brian" said he came to court for "closure," since he could not afford to go after Shin himself.

"He doesn't care about anybody but himself," Brian told KABC. "He lived off of our money until we found out and when I confronted him, he basically just disappeared on us."

"I'm thankful that…I can make money again," Brian said. "Someone's lost far greater than what we lost."

Shin's arraignment is set to continue on Sept. 28. He is facing life in prison and could receive the death penalty.

Smith was an avid outdoorsman and adventurer. His bio on his company's website said, "Having been a former professional wakeboarder, Smith now spends most of his time in the big pond, the Pacific Ocean, where he can surf the best waves that California has to offer. He also enjoys sky diving, road cycling and is a well versed amateur astronomer."

Smith's family could not be reached for comment but said the following in a statement, according to the Orange County Register: "The past year has been an otherworldly time spent overwhelmed with misinformation and uncertainty. As the truth behind events is revealed, we ask for privacy as we cope with the surge of emotions and begin to grieve."