[UPDATED with Chilling New Details:] Edward Younghoon Shin Accused of Murdering Christopher Ryan Smith

Categories: 2010 Homicides
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Christopher Ryan Smith
UPDATE, AUG. 31, 5:14 P.M.: A Weekly examination of court records in Riverside County related to a lawsuit brought by a competitor in the sales lead generation business exposes more about how Edward Younghoon Shin met the future business partner he is now accused of killing, Christopher Ryan Smith.

Meanwhile, an expert who followed that case closely discovered chilling emails Smith supposedly sent after being murdered.

And the 33-year-old's hometown newspaper has provided more biographical details about the Laguna Beach resident whose body has yet to be found.

A few years ago, Smith was working at LeadPoint Inc., a Delaware corporation whose principal place of business was Los Angeles. LeadPoint generated sales leads, as did Lead Generation Technologies (or LG Technologies) of Encino, which sued Shin, Smith and others, according to Riverside County court documents dated Feb. 22, 2010.

Shin was named vice president of business development at LG on Feb. 19, 2008. On July 3, 2008, he secretly formed a competing lead-generation business, LPS, whose first address was Shin's home in Temecula before he moved to San Clemente, where his new home was the second address for LPS. He never informed his LG overlords that he had formed LPS.

On Sept. 1, 2008, Shin was named LG's president. Seven days later, LG, through Shin, hired Smith as a full-time, independent contractor consultant, according to the suit. The same day, Smith was terminated at LeadPoint.

The complaint alleged Shin illegally funneled $1 million from LG to LPS, and that he and his co-horts did the same with LG sales leads. Smith was accused in the complaint of having secretly worked for competitor LPS at the same time he was consulting for LG, "drawing business opportunities away from LG."

Smith's contract with LG ended on Dec. 31, 2008. Shin was out of there on March 13, 2009. On April 3, 2009, the same day LG went after LPS and Shin and his wife's joint bank accounts, 800xchange was formed. It initially shared the same address as Shin's home.

Shin and Smith identified themselves as the managing partners and co-founders of 800xchange, yet another lead generation business. It was operating out of an office in San Juan Capistrano where Orange County Sheriff's homicide investigators allege Shin killed Smith before disposing of the body.

The lawsuit was later settled after Shin pleaded guilty, charges against Smith and others were dismissed and all that was publicized about the terms of the agreement was that Shin had to pay restitution and serve three years probation to avoid jail time.

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Courtesy of Orange County District Attorney's Office
Edward Younghoon Shin's latest booking photo.
The amount $1 million pops up frequently in the complaint. That's also how much Shin owed Smith to buy him out of the 800xchange partnership--before allegedly killing him.

Now comes the creepy part: Orange County Sheriff's homicide investigators and the district attorney's office claim Shin murdered Smith on June 4, 2010. But Michael Ferree, who has been following "the largest lead generation scandal in history" (that just got larger) writes on his LeadCritic blog that Smith (or someone posing as Smith) emailed him on Aug. 9 and 12 of that same year. The emails, which Ferree shares in full with his post, are pleas to update his readers about the charges in the LG complaint being dismissed.

"These and other emails were sent 2 months after Smith had been reported missing," LedCritic notes.  

Smith, a Watsonville native, was an avid surfer who once had a professional wakeboarding career years before co-founding 800xchange. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that Smith learned to surf, waterski and wakeboard growing up in Santa Cruz County:

He became a professional wakeboarder in the mid-1990s, but after injuring his knee and blowing out his Achilles tendon, Smith went into developing Internet businesses, according to family members.

"He was a really close friend of mine since childhood," said Grady Jackson of Smith. "Chris was kind of a pioneer of wakeboarding; he was pretty acrobatic and athletic about it."

It was Steve Smith, Christopher's father now living in Bend, Ore., who initially contacted the Laguna Beach Police Department about his son being missing. The Sentinel carried a statement from the Smith family describing him as "passionate and brilliant":

"Thinking outside the box was almost automatic for him when looking at any idea, concept, or something considered fact," the statement said. "Chris had a longing for peace and for something this world could not offer."

Smith's father said the family won't release further details during the investigation.

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Kenny Roy Kraft
UPDATE, AUG. 30, 12:30 P.M.: A second suspect has been arrested in the murder of 33-year-old Christopher Ryan Smith of Laguna Beach, the Orange County Sheriff's Department announced this morning.

The same sheriff's statement on Kenny Roy Craft, 34, of Laguna Niguel, confessing and being charged as an accessory to Smith's murder claims that Edward Younghoon Shin also admitted to carrying out the killing of his former partner at 800xchange, a sales lead generation firm in San Juan Capistrano.

Kraft is now being held at Orange County Jail in lieu of $250,000.00 bail.

He was scheduled to be arraigned today in Santa Ana.

"Kraft admitted to assisting Shin in the disposal of personal belongings of victim Smith," reads the statement. "These items included clothing and a 2009 white Range Rover recovered by OCSD Homicide Investigators in San Jose."

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Courtesy of the Orange County Sheriff's Department
Chris Smith's Range Rover found in San Jose.

Homicide investigators are also reaching out to the public for information on Kraft, Shin or the late Smith's property.

Call OCSD Homicide at 714.647.7048 or leave a message on the sheriff's 24-hour hotline at 714.628.7170.

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