Details of Disappearance Smith was last seen in Laguna Beach, California on June 10, 2010. He has never been heard from again. His white 2009 Range Rover disappeared with him and was found in San Jose, California in August 2011.
In August 2011, Smith's business partner, Edward Younghoon Shin, was charged with his murder. They ran 800 Xchange, an advertising business, together. Shin had previously been convicted of embezzling $600,000 from a previous employer, and he had several lawsuits pending against him. Shin had agreed to pay $700,000 in restitution to settle the criminal charges, but needed Smith's sign-off on the settlement, and Smith wanted the money to come from only Shin's personal funds. It was in the middle of this dispute that Smith disappeared.
After his arrest, Shin confessed to the homicide and admitted he'd concealed Smith's absence for seven months by, among other things, sending emails to Smith's family in Oregon pretending to be him and claiming to be on a "surf safari" in Africa. The emails continued until December, when they suddenly stopped.
Eventually Smith's family became suspicious because the writing didn't sound like his. They hired a private investigator and, in April 2011, Smith's father reported him as a missing person. When police checked the office Smith and Shin had shared, they realized it had been cleaned and repainted. They found blood traces in the carpet and DNA confirmed the blood was Smith's.
Authorities also arrested Shin's personal assistant, Kenny Roy Kraft, and charged him as an accessory: he allegedly helped cover up the homicide by disposing of Smith's vehicle and belongings. Photos of both Shin and Kraft are posted with this case summary.
Kraft testified against Shin at his trial in December 2018, saying he helped dispose of Smith's clothes. Shin claimed he killed Smith in self-defense during a fight, then paid an unidentified Eastern European man thousands of dollars to dispose of his body. The jury rejected his self-defense claim and he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In March 2019, a few months after Shin's trial, the accessory charge against Kraft was dropped "in the interest of justice", with the consent of Smith's family.
Shin maintains he has no idea where Smith's body is, but authorities believe he disposed of it himself. Cellular phone data indicates Shin drove to Boulevard, California, a town near the Mexican border, twice in the days after Smith's disappeared, and the body may be in that area.
Smith graduated from Aptos High School in 1997. He was a professional waterboarder in the 1990s, and enjoys outdoor sports, music and traveling. After his sporting career was cut short by a knee injury, he became involved in internet startup businesses.
Shin and Kraft are awaiting trial. Authorities believe he killed Smith because he didn't want to pay him the $1 million he promised. Smith's body has never been found.
- Laguna Beach Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated July 6, 2020; seven pictures added, details of disappearance updated.