Justice for Chris Smith and the Conviction of Edward Shin
On June 4, 2010, early Friday evening, in a quaint town known for the Old Mission and horse trails, Christopher Ryan Smith was murdered. Surrounding business offices were empty as workers had already left for the weekend. At the time, nobody knew of his passing, not his family, friends or longtime girlfriend. No reports of a disturbance or yelling or a fight were reported to the police. At that same time, only one person knew who the killer was. That person today continues to hold his secrets close. Though 12 jurors convicted him of murder, he has had the luxury of three squares and a bed, as well as a team of defense attorneys working hard to exonerate him. He has continued to breathe for nine years and 22 days, though probably not in the place he would have ever imagined.
Edward Younghoon Shin, an educated businessman from Irvine, California, is now 41 years old. He has spent his last eight years locked up for that cold-blooded killing. Until today, his fate was not yet known, though his defense team tried to throw that last Hail-Mary motion to continue the sentencing hearing. Friends and supporters of Chris, newspaper reporters and media teams, as well as Ed Shin’s parents sat waiting for the judge to rule on the motion.
Feeling a sense of relief when the judge denied Shin’s motion today, July 26, 2019, those of us who have worked the case and now friends in a twisted way, along with Chris’s family, finally have some semblance of closure to this saga. Though Shin still guards the truth as to where Chris’s remains lay, we know he will spend his life behind bars. Convicted on December 7, 2018, of murder with special circumstances, Shin has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Greed and entitlement are the nexus to this saga. The story is as old as Cain and Abel’s; I want what you have and am willing to kill for it. The thing is, greed doesn’t discriminate against race, economic status or gender. Shin was raised in a Christian home, was married and the father of three young children, with his wife pregnant with their fourth. To the untrained eye, he was your average SoCal husband, dad, and business associate. What has been uncovered post investigation tells a story of a different color. Shin is the personification of the portrait of Dorian Gray hidden in the attic.
I didn’t know Chris during his lifetime, but memories his family has shared over dinners, late-night telephone calls, and during the course of this painfully long eight-year trial process, has painted a picture of a kind-hearted and generous spirit. Chris was a man who embraced life and was on the verge of taking his next steps. At the time of his death, he was coming into his own as a serial entrepreneur and enjoying his Southern California surfing lifestyle, happily living in Laguna Beach. When Chris’s family and friends speak of him, they always smile.
Nobody but Shin really knows how Chris died. Supposition is that Shin either bludgeoned or stabbed Chris to death. Without the remains for the coroner to determine cause of death, we’ll never know.
Influences on the Investigative Process
What came to fruition at today’s court hearing, as I sat and waited for the judge to declare Shin’s sentence, was the realization that I was part of a divine plan. There were too many “coincidences” to not notice workings in the spiritual realm that guided my actions to help bring this case to a close. Through twists of fate or divine intervention, I happen to believe in the latter, our lives have become forever entangled.
This case, unlike any other I have worked as an investigator, has been constantly tugging on my soul. During the many years of this investigation, while my three children graduated high school and eventually college, finding the evidence to convict Shin of murder became my mission. Eight years of investigative work cannot be condensed into a 1,000-word blog, so bear with me as I work through these series of writings. Intimate times shared with Chris’s mom and dad and meetings with his brother gave me insight into the heart of the man. My goal is to serve Chris’s memory in the recounting of steps taken to bring justice to the Smith family.
So, my methodology will always be influenced by my former career as a police officer. When it comes to solving crimes or helping people through problems, I’m good at uncovering the facts. There is hard evidence and circumstantial evidence. There are bad guys (criminals) and good guys (innocent victims). This type of thinking is what I bring to my investigative practice and what helped me discover that one thing that changed the trajectory of this case from missing person to murder.
Beginning and Ending of a Business Relationship
From 2009 to June of 2010, Shin and Smith were partners in a joint venture generating business leads for clients in the debt-consolidation industry. They were on the precipice of Internet marketing and called their company 800xchange, running their business from a small office in San Juan Capistrano. At this nascent stage of online sales, they were making a lot of money. But what Chris didn’t know about his partner was that Shin came into their partnership with a lot of baggage. At that time, Shin had been convicted of embezzling more than $700,000 from a previous employer, and there was an agreement that he had to pay restitution.
With the time nearing and pressure mounting for Shin, I can surmise that Chris began to suspect something was amiss and began to question Shin. An important thing to know about the personality disorder of narcissism, is that once their protective and defensive veneer is cracked, they will expose the dark, selfish, and sociopathic behavior. Perhaps Chris got a glimpse into Ed’s dark side and shady dealings, and Ed was now pulling him deeper and deeper into his past problems. I also believe Ed was mishandling the company books, and it was at this point that Chris wanted out.
The two eventually negotiated a buyout, with Chris selling Ed his portion of the business. What Chris didn’t know was that Shin never intended to honor the agreement. Instead, on the night of June 4, 2010, while meeting to discuss final arrangements for the split, Ed killed Chris. This we know as Ed admitted during the trial that it was a “fight gone bad.” Actually, this was a premeditated and senseless act motivated by pure greed. When Ed addressed the Court on July 26th, he admitted to his selfishness, stating his moral compass was set askew.
Office Neighbors Happen to be Investigators
In May of 2011, approximately one year after Chris was murdered, my senior investigator, Chris Heuberger, and I were operating Premier Group International (PGI) in an office suite in San Juan Capistrano, California. Coincidentally, our office was just a few suites down from where Shin and Smith had operated 800xchange. Shortly after moving in, we were solicited by the building’s property manager, who asked us to locate a former tenant named Edward Shin of 800xchange. Shin had apparently closed the business and disappeared. If we were able to locate Shin, the manager requested we serve him with a complaint for skipping out on his lease, with several months remaining on the contract, and leaving a balance due of $40,000.00.
Heuberger and I got to work on locating Shin for the purpose of Service of Process, and this is when we started noticing the twists and turns; this was not a simple skip trace. We learned that several months prior to Shin skipping out on his lease, he allegedly bought out his business partner, Chris Smith of his shares to their company, 800xchange. What we eventually uncovered was this was the time that Shin went to work on mangled attempts to cover up his crime.
To better understand the sociopathic nature of Ed Shin, one need look no further than the email below. At first glance, this looks to be an email from Chris Smith to a business colleague, John, copying Shin and his brother, Paul Smith. This was simply an informational email indicating a minor change in business responsibilities between Shin and Smith. There are two important facts to consider when reviewing the email.
This telltale email later became the beginning of our “Timeline” in our investigation into the disappearance of Chris Smith.
Paul Smith <email@example.com>,|
Edward Shin <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 12:43 PM subject Re: FW: 800X -Seneca redline mailed-by 800xchange.com
My partner Ed is in charge of legal matters. I am copying him on this email to take over this part. I did send the spot already, so if you can listen to it and make sure that it’s to your liking, I will have Ed also buy the media.
At first glance, you may not notice the “mistake.” To be honest, I didn’t catch it the first time either. Take a close look at the signature. This is what happens when human nature and muscle memory fall into place. I’d classify this as a Freudian slip in its most glaring appearance. What is said in police work is “We don’t catch the smart ones.” The above email was allegedly written by Chris Smith. Ed “apparently” had a lapse of memory of who he was and signed it “Thanks, Ed”. The email was dated just four days after Shin and Smith allegedly finalized their separation agreement on June 4, 2010, which also happened to be the night Chris was murdered.
The email became a heralding piece of information, just one example in the mounds of evidence, both real and circumstantial, that we discovered. Subsequently, this prompted us to search the vacant office of 800xchange where we discovered the blood drops that lead us to believe something far more sinister happened. No longer searching for a missing person, this became a homicide investigation.