In December, 32-year-old Christopher Ryan Smith from Laguna Beach, Calif., told his family via email he was going to the Congo and Rawanda, but he never made it. And his family never really heard from him again. In fact, they weren't hearing from him before then either.
That's because Smith was murdered, and since June 2010, his killer was sending emails to Smith's family, leading them to believe their son was still alive.
According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities said Smith never made it out of the country, let alone his own office building:
They say he was killed inside his office in San Juan Capistrano by his business partner, Edward Younghoon Shin, who used Smith's email account to send the messages.
Shin was arrested earlier this week and charged with Smith's killing. The charges capped an investigation that began several months ago.
The family is still reeling, trying to understand what happened.
"Those emails were a small part of the trauma he put our family through," Smith's father, Steven, said. "It was just horrendous. It went on for months.... [Shin] led us everywhere but the truth."
According to the LA Times, Smith's family reported him missing, and when they couldn't find any signs he had been in Africa, they hired and private investigator. In May, the investigator found Shin had embezzled money from a previous employer. In April, the family filed a formal missing person report with the Laguna Beach Police Department. After finding first that Smith had never left the country in December, detectives began the hunt for Shin. They found him Sunday, right before the the plane he was on was about to take off for Canada. He then confessed to killing Smith "for purposes of financial gain."
According to the Orange County Register, Shin and Smith had been business partners for two years.The Orange Sheriff's Homicide Department is still trying to find the remains, which were not disclosed by Shin.
Watch the Orange County Register's account: