Trial for man charged in 1988 death begins

The man accused of stabbing to death a Sunset Beach man and then setting him and his apartment on fire in 1988 began opening statements Wednesday.

Paul Gentile Smith, 50, began trial for the murder of his long-time friend from high school Robert Haugen.

Smith is charged with felony special circumstances murder with torture and robbery, and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon.

He is also charged with felony conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, attempted aggravated assault and two counts of solicitation to commit aggravated assault in a separate case.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted on all charges.

Smith is accused of stabbing Haugen on Oct. 24, 1988, several times to the point of near decapitation.

He then allegedly left Haugen's body in his Sunset Beach apartment after setting it on fire.

Firefighters got the flames under control before all evidence was lost and investigators collected blood from an unknown person.

The case went cold until Smith's DNA was matched with the blood collected at the crime scene in January 2009.

—Britney Barnes

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World