Chris Smith’s ancestors knew article was off.
The 31-year-old adrenaline aficionado appeared to be hitting his stride in activity — he was a accomplice at a assisting California aggregation and seemed accessible to achieve bottomward with a woman he loved.
“I don’t apperceive abounding brothers that were as abutting as we were. We aloof had a different bond. Ever aback I was absolutely little, he acquainted like he was there to assure me, to accommodate for me,” Chris Smith’s adolescent brother Paul told “20/20.”
Watch the abounding chance on “20/20” FRIDAY, Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Subscribe now to “20/20’s” podcast about this case, “Cutthroat Inc.,” debuting on Feb. 27.
But in June 2010, his ancestors was afraid to accept an email from Chris cogent them that he’d arranged up and set off on a chance about the world.
His ancestors knew he’d been beneath immense accent at assignment and had consistently been a chargeless spirit that craved adventure, so in some agency the chance fabricated faculty — and his ancestors was reassured by the emails they started to receive.
Chris Smith, an ardent surfer, was 33 years old aback he was killed.
It was over a year afterwards aback they abstruse the abominable accuracy – Smith’s own business partner, Ed Shin, had been the one abaft the emails, assuming as Smith the absolute time he was allegedly on this around-the-world adventure.
“At that point it was just– this isn’t authoritative any sense. This guy — he’s absent his mind,” Paul Smith told “20/20.” “We started to accept suspicions. But didn’t appetite to absorb that alternation of anticipation too abundant because of area it would advance to. I anticipate it was so emotionally… adamantine to alike anticipate about.”
The ancestors said they hadn’t accustomed any buzz calls or photos of Chris the absolute time he was gone. Steve Smith, a above badge officer, started to admiration if it absolutely was his son sending these emails, so he absitively to run a test.
“I aloof beatific him a question. I said, ‘Chris– what basin do we alive on? And what blazon of baiter do we have?’ Aloof aggravating to affirm what I knew. And it took a while to get the emails back,” Steve Smith told “20/20.” “But he accepted one of them. He said, ‘Yeah, we alive on Kelly Lake.’ It aloof affectionate of caked for me that he was Chris.”
In October 2010, his ancestors accustomed an email that said Chris was in Mumbai, India, and was planning to go on to Cyprus and Africa.
“I absence you too, but I accept so abundant to see and do,” said an email anachronous Oct. 20, 2010. “No acclaim cards or coffer accounts, bro. I’m off the filigree forever.”
Chris Smith is apparent actuality in this undated ancestors photo.
But article still seemed off and Smith’s parents said they began to doubtable Ed Shin, Chris’s business partner, ability apperceive something. Smith’s ancestors afterwards abstruse in an email allegedly from Chris to his lawyer, Ernesto Aldover, that Chris had been negotiating his avenue from the business afore he left.
Smith and Shin met in 2008 while they were both alive in advance generation, a anatomy of media announcement that collects chump leads application 800 numbers, and afresh sells those leads to added companies.
But while the two men were ambience up their own advance bearing company, 800XChange, Shin was bent embezzling added than bisected a actor dollars from LG Technologies, a antecedent aggregation he and Chris formed for.
“I felt, based on the accord that we developed, things I had done for him personally, I acquainted that there would be some admeasurement of loyalty. That Ed ability be one of the aftermost bodies that would booty advantage of my generosity and kindness,” Shin’s bang-up at LG Technologies, Joe Gray, said. “But it all above bottomward to one arresting point in my mind. Ed was active above his means.”
During his time alive in advance generation, Shin frequently spent abundant weekends in Las Vegas spending money on women and bank sprees.
“The aboriginal time I started playing, [I gambled] a brace thousand dollars,” Shin told “20/20” in a new interview. “And then, you get acceptable at it. That’s the botheration with bank … best bodies tend to win aboriginal and afresh you’re absorbed to that win.”
Ed Shin is apparent actuality during a bastille account for “20/20.”
Shin pleaded accusable to abstraction in May 2010 and agreed to pay a absolute of $800,000 to achieve the civilian and bent cases adjoin him. Paying that amends would acquiesce him to abstain bastille time.
“The alone way Ed he does not breach his acquittal and go to accompaniment bastille is if he comes up with $800,000 that he has to get from 800XChange,” said Matt Murphy, a above chief agent commune advocate for Orange County and an ABC News contributor. “The alone way he can get that out of 800XChange to pay this bent amends adjustment is if Chris Smith agrees.”
But Smith didn’t appetite to assurance that settlement, Aldover told “20/20.”
“He capital to accomplish abiding that the money that belonged to him was secure,” Aldover explained. Paul Smith, who additionally formed for 800XChange at the time, said Chris Smith didn’t accept admission to the business’s accounts and was afraid that Ed ability abduct from him as well.
Chris Smith abolished in June 2010 and his ancestors went attractive for answers.
On June 4, 2010, Aldover said Shin and Chris Smith were declared to accommodated to agree the agreement.
Instead, Aldover accustomed an email from Smith that said Smith had awash his allotment of 800XChange to Shin.
“My aboriginal acknowledgment was, ‘Well, why is he accomplishing this? This isn’t what we had been negotiating for the accomplished two weeks,’” Aldover said. “The afterward Monday on June 7th, 2010, I accept an e-mail from Chris: ‘The abstracts are still actuality prepared, but I’m activity on vacation for a few weeks to South America, and… let me apperceive if you charge anything.’”
The aforementioned day Aldover accustomed that email, advisers of 800XChange were told by Ed Shin to not appear in that week.
“I went into the appointment aback I wasn’t declared to that week. I bare to grab some actuality — and it smelled absolutely bad. Like, a rotten stench,” Paul Smith said. “There’s admirers on. It was actual damp. Like, all our carpets were wet. The walls had been painted. And, I looked bottomward and I saw a big stain alfresco of Chris’ appointment on the floor.”
Shin claimed Chris Smith had appear to the appointment acutely bashed and had vomited and urinated all over the floor.
“[Chris] didn’t alcohol at the office. I mean, to puke and pee? Urinate at the office? I mean, it’s absolutely not normal, you know? He would never do article like that,” Paul Smith said.
Aback he abstruse about the declared incident, Steve Smith said he didn’t accept Shin and absitively to footfall in, afresh extensive out to his son via email to ask if it was absolutely him, and to blaze a admonishing attempt in case it was not.
“I said, ‘If this is Ed Shin, if you aching any one of my sons, I’m gonna — you up, and this is the alpha of your nightmare.’ But afresh I got a acknowledgment to it,” Smith remembered.
On Dec. 17, 2010, Steve Smith accustomed an email from Chris saying, “Dad, I’m fine. Stop tripping. I aloof bare to get some — out of my head.”
“So I thought, ‘Oh, okay.’ But I still had animosity that article was amiss afterwards that,” Steve Smith said.
The Smith ancestors accustomed emails from Chris adage he planned to chance through Africa, cantankerous over to Spain and on to Costa Rica, area he said he would accommodated Paul in February 2011.
“Eventually Paul calls the auberge that they’re absolutely declared to go to, and he learns from the auberge that there’s no catch in the name of his brother,” Murphy said. “That absolutely was apparently the attach in the coffin… the ancestors bare to get some help.”
In aboriginal 2011, the Smiths abstruse there was no almanac of Chris entering or abrogation South Africa, area they believed he had aftermost been.
Knowing now there was article actively wrong, Steve Smith said he absitively to see what his son’s above business accomplice could acquaint him.
“I had absolutely brought a gun with me,” he said. “I was absent … to acquisition my son.”
Shin told Steve Smith, who secretly recorded the conversation, that his son got a affected authorization through a man in Las Vegas who referred him to addition man in Los Angeles.
“We chock-full by there to accommodated with him and I backward in the car,” Shin told Smith in the recording.
“I anticipate there’s article absolutely wrong. He’s lying to me,” Steve Smith told “20/20.” “Either he knows what happened to Chris, or he’s amenable for it.”
In April 2011, Smith filed a missing bodies address with the Laguna Beach Police.
Shin came in to the badge administration for analytic in June 2011, a abounding year afterwards Chris Smith was aftermost seen, and he told them, “I don’t apperceive area he is.”
“Honestly, I anticipate he’s on the added ancillary of the world. And he doesn’t appetite to be found,” Shin said.
The Smith ancestors got a computer able to assay the abstracts in the emails the ancestors accustomed from Chris, who baldheaded advancing news: The emails had been beatific from aural the U.S., not abroad.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Administration went to 800XChange’s above offices, and begin traces of blood.
“It was helter-skelter,” Murphy said. “It was a blood-soaked mess.”
Months later, a DNA analysis accepted the claret belonged to Chris Smith.
In August 2011, badge arrested Shin as he was boarding a even from Los Angeles to Canada. At the time, they best him up for actionable his acquittal from the abstraction case, which assured he was not accustomed to leave the country.
He told badge he and Smith got into a huge action in 800XChange office, area Smith fatally hit his head. Shin claimed he paid a abstruse Eastern European man $10,000 to $15,000 to actuate of Smith’s body. Shin additionally insisted he didn’t apperceive area the anatomy was.
“It was a boxy day. Aloof fell to my knees,” Paul Smith said. “The images that appear into your apperception at that point of addition you adulation actuality murdered. Brought in a lot of emotions. And aloof heartbreak.”
In December 2018, Shin was bedevilled of first-degree annihilation with appropriate circumstances, and was afterwards bedevilled to activity in bastille after the achievability of parole. He continues to affirmation that Chris Smith died accidentally during their fight. To this day, Shin insists he never aimed to annihilate Smith and refuses to acknowledge the area of his body.
Ed Shin, who was bedevilled to activity in bastille after the achievability of acquittal for the afterlife of his business accomplice Chris Smith, speaks to ABC News’ Matt Gutman.
“I can’t allocution about that … because I don’t know,” Shin, now 42, told “20/20” in a bastille interview. “There is no way I can get into that at this point … I ambition I could acquaint you added but, there’s article bigger that I aloof can’t allocution about.”
As for Smith’s family, they are larboard to try to aces up the pieces and account Smith’s memory.
“We can feel his spirit, still,” Paul Smith said of his brother. “We’re assured that we’re activity to see him afresh someday. You know, we accept that hope. So, we adhere to that hope.”
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