Preliminary hearing begins for man accused in three murders


EL CAJON (CNS) - An 18-year-old woman testified Tuesday that her uncle raped her and forced her to have sex multiple times shortly after she moved from Vietnam to Chula Vista with her family.

The alleged victim -- identified in court as Jane Doe -- testified as a preliminary hearing got under way at the El Cajon Courthouse for 57-year-old Michael Richardson, who is also charged with three murders.

He is accused of killing his wife and mother-in-law in a staged car wreck last June 29. The bodies of 39-year-old Thao Richardson and her mother, 72-year-old Than Lyi, were found outside the wreckage of a car that had tumbled down an embankment near Lakeside.

The defendant is also charged with murdering his then-girlfriend, Jovita Collazo, who disappeared in 1992 and whose body has never been found. Collazo and her 13-year-old daughter had been living with Richardson in National City for several years when she went missing.

The defendant's niece testified today that she and her parents moved into her aunt and uncle's home in December 2009, when she was 17. Her grandmother, Richardson and her aunt's daughter also lived in the home, she said.

The sexual relationship with Richardson began sometime around the beginning of March 2010, the witness said. She testified that Richardson took her to the park one day and began hugging her.

A few days later, she said, Richardson kissed her while they were watching television. Then, the alleged victim said, he came into her bedroom late one night and raped her.

She said Richardson told her not to tell anyone what had happened or he would tell her aunt that she enticed him, instead of the other way around.

She said she had sex with the defendant several other times in his room while her aunt was at work and also at a local hotel when she was supposed to be at school.

Her aunt found out about her niece's sexual relationship with her husband after reading text message the teenager had sent him, the young woman said.

She said Richardson wrote down affectionate sayings and told her to text them back to him.

The witness said she initially lied to police, telling officers that whatever happened with Richardson was her own doing, because that's what her aunt told her to say.

She said her aunt told her that Richardson would go to jail and her cousin wouldn't have a father if she was truthful about the sexual relationship.

The witness said she was also fearful that her family would be sent back to Vietnam if she was truthful about the sexual encounters with Richardson.

At Richardson's initial arraignment last July, prosecutor Chantal de Mauregne told a judge that the defendant escaped from a North Carolina prison in 1982 -- where he served time for robbery -- and remained on the lam for 18 years.

He was initially charged only with molesting his niece. He was subsequently charged with the murders of his wife and mother-in-law and months later with the 1992 killing.

El Cajon Judge Herbert Exarhos will decide at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing -- which resumes tomorrow -- if enough evidence was presented to proceed with the murder and sexual assault charges that could result in the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he is convicted.

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