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Long Beach man sentenced to life in prison for torturing, killing friend in 1988

A Long Beach man was sentenced to life in prison Monday after being convicted of torturing and killing his friend more than two decades ago.

At his sentencing, Paul Gentile Smith, 50, also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a jailhouse attempt to hire an undercover investigator to assault the lead detective in his murder case and a witness, prosecutors said.

The charges against Smith come from a 1988 cold case, in which 29-year-old Robert Haugen's body was found nearly decapitated in his burning Sunset Beach apartment.

The homicide case remained cold until 2009, when DNA that Smith submitted after an unrelated arrest in Nevada was matched to blood left behind in Haugen's apartment, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

Smith, who was a longtime high school friend of the victim, was charged with murder and sent back to Orange County.

During his trial, Smith denied killing his friend. He said his blood was found inside the victim's apartment because he had been buying drugs from the man the night before the slaying and had nicked himself with a small knife while cutting marijuana, district attorney officials said in a statement.

In a statement, Haugen's mother, Janey Perry, said, "Twenty-two years later, I find myself going through the same pain I experienced when he was murdered in 1988."

After several months in jail, Smith tried to reach out to an investigator he thought he could hire to assault the lead detective on his case and a witness, prosecutors said. Smith called the investigator and asked him to carry out the assault on the witness for $300, providing a detailed description of the man, prosecutors said.

Smith's girlfriend, Tina Smith, 47, allegedly met with the investigator at a fast-food restaurant in Lake Forest with the intention of paying a $50 advance for the assault.

She has already pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.

Paul Smith's life sentence will not allow for parole.

-- Robert Faturechi

 

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

You don't torture and kill a friend. That would be called a former friend. Story should say Smith tortured and killed a man or drug supplier and later explain that they had known each other since high school and were once close if that was true. I'm sure the dead man would object to calling his murderer his friend. You not only call him a friend several times in the story but you scream it in the title.

California is so obsessed with old cases!

Justice on deaths has not time limit. I'm glad the state is going back and fixing old cases correctly, with the new tools available to them today.

If your loved one was a victim of an unsolved murder I'm sure you would be relived and happy for that old case to be solved.

To "Disgusted Californian",
While it may seem like an obsession to you why not think of the families who wonder day and night if the killer of their loved ones is still walking around free and will there ever be chance that he/she will get caught. I'd like to think that somehow going through cold cases and finding a suspect, bringing them to justice and yes unfortunately sending them to jail for life, would hopefully put some of that worry to rest.

I agree with the comment made by "Some friend." Well said. The use of the term "friend" in this article disturbed me as well.

Could the article have included the motive for the slaying? Is that too much to ask for? Geez...

"Disgusted," what is it exactly that disgusts you? You think if someone gets away with murder long enough they should be permanently exempt from punishment? You think some victims deserve justice and others don't?


I was a Californian who wasn't disgusted until I read your post. Grow up, and recognize that your tax bill isn't the only thing in this world that matters.

Disgusted Californian might also want to consider that a person who committed a murder an "old case" murder is much more likely to have committed other more recent crimes.


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