A Long Beach man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for the 1988 stabbing of a Sunset Beach man to death before setting him and his apartment on fire.

Paul Gentile Smith, 50, was sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the torture and murder of his high school friend Robert Haugen, 29, at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

A jury found Smith guilty Nov. 2 of special circumstances murder with torture and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon.

Smith stabbed Haugen several times on Oct. 24, 1988, almost taking off his friend's head.

He then left Haugen's body in his Sunset Beach apartment and set it on fire.

Firefighters got the flames under control before all evidence was destroyed. Investigators were able to collect 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.

He also pleaded guilty after his sentencing for additional charges for conspiring to have the case's lead detective and a witness murdered.

—Britney Barnes