By Cassandra Reinhart, Special to the Independent
As a chain-shackled Edward Shin shuffled into Orange County Superior Court, his parents closed their eyes and hung their heads.
Shin, 40, of Irvine, is charged with murdering Laguna Beach resident Chris Smith, 32, in June 2010 after prosecutors allege a deal between the two businessmen went bad. Almost eight years later, Shin still has not stood trial.
Though his trial was set to start Friday, Jan. 12, Judge Thomas Goethals delayed the trial at least a week because the lead prosecutor in the case is engaged in another case.
“We have accommodated the defense in every conceivable way, and I haven’t filed a single continuance,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told the judge. “There’s not another prosecutor in the county who knows anything about the Shin case.”
The prosecution’s case may likely hinge on a motive of greed.
Prosecutors allege Shin wanted control of the advertising and media relations firm he and Smith co-founded, but didn’t want to pay Smith’s price of $1 million. They say Shin killed Smith in their San Juan Capistrano office in 2010, and forged his signature on documents, relinquishing control of the company to Shin.
Though Smith’s body has never been found, investigators found traces of blood containing Smith’s DNA at the office even after the office was freshly cleaned and painted. Smith was last seen alive in June of 2010.
After the murder, police allege Shin posed as Smith by hijacking his email account. Posing as Smith, prosecutors say, Shin concealed his disappearance by sending messages to Smith’s family, telling them he was traveling overseas and surfing in South Africa.
Growing suspicious, Smith’s family reported him missing to Laguna Beach police in April of 2011. According to online wire service Courthouse News, Shin was arrested by sheriff’s deputies at LAX in August of 2011, about to board a flight to Canada. Though authorities say he originally confessed to killing Smith, Shin later recanted his statements.
“I have an open file policy, where I open my files to the defense attorneys,” Murphy told the judge. “I told him my strategy was probably not putting on Mr. Shin’s statements. Here we are, I’m jammed and now for the first time the defense is refusing me more time.”
Shin’s defense attorney, Al Stokke of Newport Beach, is a former Orange County District Attorney. He told the judge he didn’t want to delay Shin’s case further. “We are ready to proceed,” Stokke told Judge Goethals.
Smith and Shin were colleagues at a previous company, and Shin had previously been convicted of embezzlement at a Riverside County company and ordered to pay $700,000 in restitution, according to the sheriff’s department.
Though trial is now set for Friday, Jan. 19, it may be delayed at least another eight weeks.
“If we set this matter in March, we have a good chance of getting there,” Murphy asked the judge, who ultimately told the two sides to try to resolve the start of the trial by Friday, or he would intervene.