Sunset murder case leads to assault and conspiracy charges

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, the Orange County grand jury indicted a former Long Beach resident and his girlfriend for conspiring to pay $300 to have a homicide investigator and a witness assaulted.

Paul Gentile Smith, 49, has already been indicted for the 1988 murder of his high school pal, Sunset Beach resident Robert Haugen. The victim was 29 years old when he died. Paul Smith has been held without bail since he was extradited from Nevada earlier this year to face a charge of murder with special circumstances.

In the newest charge against Paul Smith, the grand jury indictment accused him of calling a man and offering him $300 to attack both a civilian witness and the lead homicide detective on the 1988 murder case.

Paul Smith apparently did not know he was talking to an undercover law enforcement officer.

An indictment is simply an official accusation of a crime. The grand jury does not decide if someone is innocent or guilty. The trial jury, formally known as a petite (small) jury, will weigh the evidence in the case

The grand jury accused Smith’s girlfriend, Tina Derae Smith, 46, of Mission Viejo, of discussing the plot over the phone more than once. The grand jury also accused Tina Smith of paying the undercover investigator a $50 advance for the two assaults.

Tina Smith is being held on $100,000 bail.

The assault and conspiracy indictment was the latest twist in a murder case that began with an apparent apartment fire in Sunset Beach on Oct. 24, 1988.

A murder in Sunset Beach

According to the Oct. 27, 1988 issue of the Huntington Harbour Sun (one of the original Sun Newspapers),  Robert Haugen was living in an upstairs apartment on 9th Street. The original news article described Haugen as a former brick layer who had been injured on the job and was receiving disability payments from the state of California.

However, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office recently described Haugen  as a marijuana dealer.

In either case, at about 1 p.m., on Oct. 24, 1988, a downstairs neighbor saw smoke coming from Haugen’s apartment. The neighbor, John Bokey, called the fire department.

One of the first firefighters to enter the apartment was John Woods. “We went in until the oxygen ran out,” Woods said.

Woods and his fellow firefighters knocked down the blaze and discovered a dead body.

At the time, Battalion Chief Dave Wilson told the Harbour Sun that it was unusual to find a body at a fire scene.

“Any time a body is found in a fire, it is treated as a suspicious death,” Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Bob Rivas told the Harbour Sun.

The autopsy determined that the dead man had been stabbed 18 times, according to the Harbour Sun.

However, the most recent statement from the DA’s Office only said that Haugen was stabbed several times.

The body wasn’t the only thing found at the crime scene.

According to the DA’s Office, investigators also found blood at the crime scene that did not belong to the victim.

However, DNA analysis did not exist in 1988.

The next major development in the case came in 2007.

DNA revives cold case

According to the District Attorney’s Office, in 2007, Paul Smith was arrested in Nevada for domestic violence. His DNA was 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.

The DNA technology used to link Smith to the murder did not exist in 1988. Smith was charged with the murder and extradited back to Orange County in March 2009.

Paul Smith has been charged with one felony count each of special circumstances murder with torture.

If convicted, Paul Smith could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

David Vilter of the Huntington Harbour Sun contributed to this article.