Man to stand trial in murders of wife, mother-in-law, girlfriend
EL CAJON, Calif. -- A Chula Vista man accused of killing his girlfriend in 1992 and, more recently, his wife and mother-in-law in a staged car wreck must stand trial on charges of first-degree murder and other crimes, a judge ruled Thursday.

Michael Eugene Richardson, 57, was charged last year with two counts of murder in the deaths of his 39-year-old wife, Thao, and 72-year-old mother-in- law, Phan Lai. Their bodies were discovered last June 29 near an overturned car off state Route 67 north of Lakeside.

The defendant -- who owned a mechanic shop in Poway -- was charged in January in the death of 38-year-old Jovita Collazo of National City, whose body has never been found.

Richardson also is charged with carrying on a sexual relationship with his 17-year-old niece last year.

After a three-day preliminary hearing, El Cajon Judge Herbert Exarhos found that enough evidence had been presented for Richardson to stand trial on three counts of murder and eight sexual assault counts. The judge scheduled arraignment for July 14.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide later whether Richardson will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he's convicted.

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.