MAN CONVICTED OF MURDERING FRIEND IN 1988 AND SETTING APARTMENT ON FIRE TO DESTROY THE EVIDENCE

Orange County District Attorney
Press Release


Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701

For Immediate Release
Case # 09ZF0071

 


 

November 2, 2010

Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
Office: 714-347-8408
Cell: 714-292-2718

Farrah Emami
Spokesperson
Office: 714-347-8405
Cell: 714-323-4486

MAN CONVICTED OF MURDERING FRIEND IN 1988 AND SETTING APARTMENT ON FIRE TO
DESTROY THE EVIDENCE

*Defendant faces a separate jury trial for recently conspiring to have lead detective and witness assaulted for $300

 

SANTA ANA – A Long Beach man was convicted today of the 1988 cold case stabbing, torture, and murder of his longtime friend. Paul Gentile Smith, 50, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of special circumstances murder with torture and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon. Smith faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing on Nov. 29, 2010, in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

 

The defendant still faces a separate jury trial for recently conspiring with his girlfriend to solicit the attack of the lead investigator in his homicide case. In that case, he is charged with one felony count each of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, attempted aggravated assault, and two felony counts of solicitation to commit aggravated assault. The conspiracy case charges will be tried on the same date as his sentencing in the murder case.  

 

Paul Smith’s co-defendant girlfriend, Tina Derae Smith, 47, Mission Viejo, pleaded guilty in this case April 2, 2010, to one felony count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and was sentenced to 240 days in jail and five years of formal probation.

 

Circumstances of the Murder

On Oct. 24, 1988, Paul Smith murdered his long-time high school friend, 29-year-old Robert Haugen, by stabbing the victim several times, nearly decapitating him. Paul Smith left Haugen’s body in the victim’s Sunset Beach apartment, set the victim’s body and apartment on fire to destroy the evidence, and fled the scene. Firefighters were able to put out the fire before it completely consumed the apartment and Haugen’s body. Blood belonging to the victim and an unknown second person was collected at the scene. The case was investigated but went cold.

 

In 2007, Paul Smith was arrested in Nevada for domestic violence. His DNA was later entered into the national DNA database. In late January 2009, Paul Smith’s DNA was linked to the blood found in Haugen’s apartment after the murder using DNA technology that did not exist in 1988. Smith was charged with the murder and extradited back to Orange County in March 2009.

 

During the trial, Smith denied committing the murder and offered an alternate explanation to why his blood was at the murder scene.  He testified that he had been in the victim’s apartment to buy drugs the night before the murder, and had nicked himself with a small knife while cutting marijuana. Paul Smith admitted during his testimony that he had violent tendencies and had previously tortured his girlfriend by stabbing her in the leg, opposite to another wound he claimed she had inflicted herself, in order for her to have matching “his and hers” stab wounds.

 

Paul Smith also admitted during the trial that he had offered sexual favors from h