Taxicab driver to accused murderer: 'Go to prison and fry' - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Taxicab driver to accused murderer: 'Go to prison and fry'

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Michael Eugene Richardson Michael Eugene Richardson
Ken Johnson, former taxicab driver Ken Johnson, former taxicab driver

By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- There is new information in the murder case against Michael Eugene Richardson, the 57-year-old Chula Vista man charged with killing his wife and mother in law, and molesting his teenage niece.

Richardson was convicted of shooting a taxi cab driver in the face 35 years ago. The victim survived and spoke to News 8 about the crime and the new charges filed against Richardson.

In 1975, Michael Richardson was 22 years old and just out of the Air Force, when he hailed a cabbie in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

"He flagged me down, got in the right back (seat) and told me where he wanted to go: South Betty Street in Spring Lake, North Carolina," said Ken Johnson, the cab driver.

When he reached his destination, Richardson pulled out a gun and fired without saying a word said Johnson, 59.

"I leaned over to see what the meter is and I remember it was $5 and some change; and then when I lifted back up and turned my head, that's when he shot me in the face," Johnson said in a phone interview from his home in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

"Right cheek, right where the dimple usually is, that's where it went in," Johnson said. "If I had not turned my head he would have hit me in the back of my head."

At the time, Johnson was age 24 and he only had $10 dollars in his pocket. He was driving a cab to earn extra money for the Christmas holidays.

"The first thing I thought was this guy is going to kill me, so I grabbed the door handle, went out the door and that's when he shot me in the back," Johnson said. "He tried to kill me over ten dollars."

Richardson fired off a third round while Johnson was running away, hitting the cabbie in the shoulder. He then hopped in the front seat of the taxi cab and drove off.

"They (arrested) him up in Kinston two days later driving the cab, and the detective asked him, ‘why did you shoot the guy?' He says, 'I wanted to kill the son of a bitch.'" Johnson recalled. "But I never met him or anything."

Richardson was charged with attempted murder and armed robbery, court records show. He pleaded guilty to the robbery count and the attempted murder count was dismissed as part of a plea bargain.

Richardson then escaped from prison in 1982, seven years into a 30-year sentence. He moved to California, where he lived as a fugitive for 18 years and operated an auto repair business in Poway named Mike's Auto.

Coincidentally, Johnson also lived in Poway between 1981 and 1989.

"I never knew he escaped and bought a business in Poway," Johnson said. "I worked at Poway Ford and that's approximately 3 to 5 miles away. It's unbelievable."

Deputies arrested Richardson July 1 and he is now charged with murdering his wife, 39-year-old Thao Richardson and his mother-in-law Than Lyi, 72.

Homicide detectives said Richardson staged a traffic accident on Highway 67 to make it look like the women died in a car crash.

The apparent motive was an alleged sexual relationship Richardson was having with his 17-year-old niece. Prosecutors say Richardson committed the murders after his wife discovered text messages between the defendant and the teenager.

"I'm frustrated with it, how this guy has done all this and gotten away with it," said Johnson, the former cabbie. "Now, the murder charges and rape charges; this guy needs to be put away."

If Richardson is convicted, he may come face to face with Johnson once again; this time in El Cajon court. Johnson said he recently received a call from the San Diego District Attorney's office, informing him of his right to speak if and when a sentencing hearing is held.

"I think I would tell him, ‘You know you need to go to prison and fry and pay for what you've done,'" Johnson said.

Johnson recalled it took him years to recover from his gunshot wounds.

"For about two years I was pulling bone fragments out of my tongue," he said. "I was out of work for six months. I couldn't talk. I lost my home. I lost my car. I lost my full-time job. I lost everything."

Richardson has pleaded not guilty to 13 sex crime counts involving his niece, two counts of murder, and a special allegation of multiple murders.

Prosecutors are expected to announce whether they will seek the death penalty sometime after Richardson's preliminary hearing, currently set for January 19.

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