The heartbreaking story of Chris Smith being killed by Ed Shin continues to intrigue our audience and keeps popping up on all the popular whodunit sites, e.g., Dateline, the Oxygen Channel, People Magazine Investigates, and now 20/20. As the first private investigators on this case back in 2011, we filled thick binders with pages of notes to help aid in the investigation. After careful re-reading, there are still some holes that have yet to be filled.
If you’ve been following the blogs over the past year, you’re all caught up with how the police, detectives, and district attorney’s office put together the case that convicted Ed Shin of murdering Chris Smith, a beloved son, brother, and friend.
However, if this is your first time visiting the PGI Premier 360 Blog, start at our August 2019, post Blood Drops and Email Swaps to get up to speed on the evidence that was given to the jury that put away Shin for life.
We know that Shin and Chris became friends in 2008 when they both worked for the same company, LG Technologies in San Fernando, Chris as a consultant and Shin as the president. They had similar interests that involved entrepreneurship and growing businesses, so they both left LG and teamed up to form the 800 Exchange LLC, a sales lead-generating venture located in Orange County.
Throughout these past ten years, before he was finally convicted in 2018, Shin has been the sole source of information on Chris’s demise. Through our unfiltered lens, our point of view on how it all went down couldn’t be more different than the story Shin seems determined to cling to.
Below is a timeline of important events leading up to and after Chris’s disappearance. Let’s see if you’re able to paint the same picture we did.
- Chris and Shin met in 2008 when Shin worked at LG Technologies. Shin had hired Chris to work at LG as a consultant.
- Chris left LG at the end of 2008 and Shin resigned in March of 2009.
- Chris and Shin formed 800 Exchange LLC.
- On October 27, 2009, Shin was arrested on charges of embezzlement.
- LG sued Edward Shin, implicated Chris Smith and others in 2009, in Riverside County Court.
- On May 26, 2010, Shin was convicted of embezzlement of funds from LG Technologies.
- There was no evidence that Smith participated or had knowledge of Shin’s criminal acts.
- Shin was ordered to pay restitution of $700,000 to be paid in full by November 14, 2010, or he would spend 16 months in jail.
- When Shin admitted to the embezzlement, LG dropped its claims against the other defendants, including Chris.
- On June 4, 2010, at around 6:00 p.m., Chris emailed his attorney about selling his shares of 800xchange to Shin for $1 million. It should be noted, Chris expressed concern in emails to his attorney that “Shin might be up to his old tricks again,” because Chris was concerned Shin was embezzling money from their own company.
- There is a “signed” document dated June 4, 2010, which cemented the sale of Chris’s portion of 800xchange to Shin. A handwriting analysis report (dated August 3, 2011) stated, “…there are indications that the questioned signature was not produced by the same writer…”
- June 4, 2010 was the last day anyone saw Chris Smith alive.
- On June 7, 2010, “Chris” broke up with his longtime girlfriend via email.
- A June 7, 2010, email from “Chris” to his mom stated he was going on vacation, “…probably a 3-week trip to galpagos [sic] islands and costa rica,” when she asked if they could visit him June 26-July 2, 2010.
- The week of June 7, 2010, 800xchange employees were given paid time off from work so the office could be cleaned. Ed told everyone Chris got drunk, spilled wine, urinated and vomited in the office.
- On June 13, 2010, Chris failed to pick up his younger brother, Paul Smith, from the airport, although it had been prearranged. No show/no call or text.
- June 15, 2010, Paul returned to work at the offices of 800xchange and noticed the carpet had been cleaned and walls were newly painted.
- From mid-2010 to December 26, 2010, Chris’s parents, brother, attorney, friends and other family members received emails detailing his around-the-world excursion.
So now that you’ve got the gist of this, can you feel the pressure Shin was under to come up with the humungous amount of money he needed to stay out of jail?
Here’s what we presently know about the man Ed Shin:
- Admitted and convicted embezzler
- Convicted murderer
- Thief – Numerous allegations that Ed stole from others, including business colleagues
- Extorter – Ed attempted to extort $50 million from his father in a fake kidnapping scheme of himself
Going back to the summer of 2010, after reading the many emails from “Chris,” it took his family members time to accept the fact that he sold his shares of this lucrative company to his business partner and abandoned all in the U.S. to travel and sail the seas.
The family indicated it was highly unlikely that Chris would leave his place in Laguna Beach, a condo he just started renting in May of 2010, without telling anybody, not his parents, brother, or even his longtime girlfriend. They also knew Chris had another entrepreneurial adventure on the back burner he was excited about, so his quick exit was even more disturbing.
The final email received by the family was just after Christmas on December 26, 2010. “Chris” stated he was going to travel into Africa with someone he just met and try to sell more Krugerrands.
Your Nightmare Has Just Begun
Up until that point, suspicions were becoming heightened and Chris’s parents voiced them out loud in the email threads. In an August 2, 2010, email, Steve asked Chris to name the lake they used to live on and what type of boat he used to ski behind. “Chris” was only able to name the lake.
October through December of 2010, all the family members were pleading for Chris to contact them. They asked him repeatedly to make a phone call so they could hear his voice. Debi, Chris’s mother, stated in one email:
“…we thought maybe you had been killed and Ed had covered it up…posing as you in the emails…”
On December 8, 2010, in an email to “Chris,” Steve – Chris Smith’s father — made the following foreboding warning:
If this is Ed Shin and if I find out you have hurt or injured either one of my sons, I am going to F*ck You Up. Your nightmare has just begun.
No matter the age of our children, as parents we’ll always worry. It comes with the job. Debi and Steve reiterated in their email conversations with “Chris” their desire to hear from him, see him, visit; anything. Steve’s final enraged message conveyed his feelings perfectly and that’s when the alarm bell was finally pulled.
Today, 15 months after Shin was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Chris Smith for financial gain, he continues to deny he knows where Chris’s remains are.
Any parent who has lost a child would understand the complete frustration with Shin’s unwillingness to divulge the truth. There are plenty of theories about why Shin continues to obstruct the search for Chris’s body. In our office we have a few ideas as to why.
Shin was known to swing a golf club in his office and had a baseball bat there, too. He admitted to the property management company that red wine was spilled all over the place when Chris allegedly vomited and urinated on the day of the “fight.” At around the same time as Chris’s disappearance, Shin had called the property manager asking, “How do you get blood out of carpet?” Yeah, you read that correctly.
Shin is not a small man, standing 6 feet tall and 190 lbs. Chris was an avid athlete, a wakeboarder and surfer, though smaller and leaner than Shin. The theory is that Chris was taken by surprise and bludgeoned from behind with either the golf club, bat, or bottle of wine.
The janitor who saw the mess in the office reported seeing red markings on the carpet and halfway up the walls, to which Shin told the janitor he accidently cut his arm while cutting an apple. Again, you read that right. We just can’t make this stuff up.
Something that was not brought up in the 2018 trial was an email dated June 8, 2010, just a few days after Shin killed Chris. Shin, impersonating Chris (as we now know), wrote the following email to Paul, John Gebert, cc’ing himself, Edward Shin, addressing a minor business change.
Before reading the original email below, keep in mind that our eyes can easily overlook the little things and why we stress careful study of all evidence. Let’s see if you can spot the mistake. Look at the signature. Shin apparently signed off with his own name when he was posing as “Chris.” In Shin’s haste, his muscle memory caused the glaring error.
|from Chris Smith firstname.lastname@example.org to “Gebert, John”
cc 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
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.
My opinion is: It’s impossible to get away with murder. With years of investigations under my belt, I’ve found that when someone is a habitual liar it becomes difficult to remember what was said. On the flip side, it’s natural and easy to recall actual events.
And how did Ed explain away signing his own name to an email that “Chris” authored? He never did.
Now let’s look at Shin’s confession to an accidental killing, which I believe just doesn’t add up. If Chris really hit his head while falling onto his desk, how is it that blood spatter was found in multiple places in the office, on the door jam, the ceiling, baseboards, floors, and walls?
What Shin “admitted” to doing to Chris flies in the face of pure physics and the evidence. The one and only reason Shin will not tell anyone where Chris’s remains are is because then we will finally KNOW how he murdered Chris. If we are to find Chris’s remains, I believe we’ll see fractures at the back of the skull, which would mean Chris had no way of defending himself against Shin.
Floating around the water-cooler circle is another theory that Shin has been protecting someone. I believe Shin needed assistance transporting Chris’s body from the 800xchange office to the building’s parking lot and then lifting him into a vehicle.
There’s been speculation that Shin’s assistant, Kenny Kraft, or another employee and high school friend, Adam Prestitto, helped Shin move, carry, lift, and subsequently transport Chris’s body to the Imperial Valley desert. This scenario makes even more sense knowing that when Paul returned to the closed office to pick up his computer so he could work from home, Shin and Prestitto were there painting the walls.
But… I don’t think Shin is protecting Kenny Kraft or Adam Prestitto.
When I watched the previous airing of this case on Dateline, and what I think we’ll see on 20/20 is Shin appearing to protect someone. I believe Shin is protecting someone close to him or someone he is afraid of. Shin’s father, James Shin, is Ed’s only source of funding for his defense and appeal. If James is implicated in Chris’s murder, he’ll go to prison. If that were to happen, who would finance their defense?
When we looked at James Shin’s background, it appeared he had many questionable business practices similar to his sons. Although this saying is cliché, it’s pertinent to this case: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Now I’m thinking… if I should suddenly disappear after putting these theories into cyberspace, make sure the police question James Shin.
So, as many times as the television production teams want to interview Shin to get conclusory statements on where he put Chris’s body, it’s a lost cause. We know Shin is the ultimate narcissist and he’ll stick to this fable of self-defense till death, or at least until he exhausts his appeals or runs out of money.
My hope and belief is that the Smith family has come to peace knowing Chris is resting with God in heaven, in his spiritual body. Chris’s family and friends, I’m sure, feel he left this earth way too early. I feel I missed out on an opportunity to meet him in better circumstances. He left a legacy of memories of a creative, kind, selfless, and gentle soul. Getting to “know” Chris throughout this investigation is my reminder to daily embrace life and the people around me.