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

November 29, 2010 |  1:09 pm

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