A man arrested for allegedly having sex with his teenage niece pleaded not guilty Tuesday to multiple counts of sex with a minor and trying to dissuade a witness from testifying.
Judge Charles Ervin ruled that no bail would be allowed for the defendant, 57-year-old Michael Richardson, since he had escaped from prison in the past.
Richardson, the man at the center of an investigation into the "staged" deaths of his wife and mother-in-law, escaped from prison in North Carolina and was on the run for years, according to court records. He is being called a person-of-interest in his wife and mother-in-law’s deaths, was arrested Thursday and accused of molesting his underage relative.
According to court records in North Carolina, Richardson was convicted of robbery with a weapon in 1976. He escaped from prison in 1982, and was later caught in San Diego and sent back to prison in 2000. He was then placed on parole until 2004. It was around that time that he and his wife, Thao Richardson, had a daughter.
Prosecutors said in court Tuesday that Richardson -- who has been called a "person of interest" in the recent deaths of his wife Thao, an her elderly mother -- has moved large amounts of funds between bank accounts, with some transactions totaling as much as $500,000. Deputy District Attorney Chantal Demauregne estimated Richardson had assets of nearly $10 million.
In other developments on Tuesday, the judge ordered that there be no contact within 100 yards between Richardson and somebody named named Phuong N.
Prosecutors also said the alleged vctim immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in December 2005 and that she lived with the Richardsons in their Eastlake home in the 2200 block of Brook Trails Court. Demauregne also said the alleged relationship between Richardson and his niece began in January, and culminated in repeated sexual acts.
Demauregne told the court that Richardson's wife discovered the relationship between her husband and maternal niece when she read text messages sent between the two. Thao demanded an end to the relationship, according to prosecutors, but Demauregne said the pair did not break it off. Michael Richardson also allegedly told the teen they would run off together and take the Richardsons' 7-year-old daughter with them.
A Honda Accord owned by Richardson and his 39-year-old wife was discovered upside down in a ravine off state Route 67 in Lakeside last week. Thao and her mother, Than Lyi, 72, were found dead near the vehicle.
Investigators originally thought the crash scene was a tragic accident, until they looked closely at the injuries on the bodies. A law enforcement source said at least one of the women had been shot.
Family members are trying to get custody of the Richardsons' daughter.