LOS ANGELES -- Last summer, Christopher Ryan Smith emailed family and friends with exciting news: He was embarking on an African adventure.
Over the next few months, his emails recounted the highlights. One day he was paragliding near Johannesburg. On another, he was sand boarding in "huge mines" in South Africa where the "sand was softer than snow powder."
In December, the 32-year-old Internet executive from Laguna Beach, Calif., announced that he was going to Congo and Rwanda. Then, abruptly, all communication stopped.
His worried family in Oregon called U.S. authorities and launched an international hunt, fearing he might have run into trouble in the war-torn region.
But Orange County, Calif., authorities now say Smith was never in Africa; in fact, he was already dead. 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.