Chula Vista man charged with murdering wife, mother-in-law - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Chula Vista man charged with murdering wife, mother-in-law

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EL CAJON (CNS) - A 57-year-old Chula Vista man was charged Thursday with two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife and mother-in-law in the East County.

Michael Eugene Richardson, who was previously charged with carrying on a sexual relationship with his teenage niece, could face the death penalty if convicted in the deaths of his 39-year-old wife Thao and 72-year-old mother-in-law, Than Lyi.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide after the defendant's preliminary hearing -- set for Jan. 19 -- whether he will face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the murders.

Outside court, Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals declined to go into any of the facts involving the new charges, which include a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.

Previously retained defense counsel Domenic Lombardo told Judge Charles Ervin that Richardson was indigent, and asked to be relieved from the case. Deputy Public Defender Megan Marcotte was appointed to represent Richardson.

Richardson -- held without bail -- was charged last month with three counts of statutory rape, eight counts of oral copulation with a minor, and one each of rape with a foreign object and attempting to dissuade a witness stemming from the alleged abuse of his 17-year-old niece.

At the time, authorities said Richardson was under investigation for the deaths of his wife and mother-in-law, who were found dead June 29 in a wrecked car down an embankment from state Route 67 north of Lakeside.

Investigators determined their injuries were not caused by a crash and called in homicide detectives.

At Richardson's arraignment last month, Deputy District Attorney Chantal de Mauregne told Ervin that Richardson escaped from a North Carolina prison in 1982 -- where he served time for robbery -- and remained on the lam for 18 years.

The prosecutor said Richardson had assets of $10 million and had recently shuffled $500,000 between various bank accounts.

The defendant's niece and her mother moved from Vietnam to Richardson's home last December, and the defendant quickly initiated a relationship with the girl that started with hugs and kisses and progressed to sexual activity in the first three months of this year, the prosecutor alleged.

De Mauregne said the defendant's wife discovered what was happening when she read text messages between the two.

Richardson was arrested in March, but released without charges when the girl initially refused to cooperate.

The teen told authorities "she was in love with the defendant, who said he would take care of her," the prosecutor said. "According to the victim, the defendant promised her he would leave his wife, be with the victim, and basically run off with her."

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