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Fort Smith man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend

by Remington Miller | August 24, 2022 at 3:38 p.m.
A gavel and the scales of justice are shown in this photo.

A Fort Smith man has been charged in connection with a Sebastian County murder after authorities said they found a bloody mattress and the victim’s car containing blood at the Fort Smith duplex where he reportedly lives.

Charges levied on Maurice Anthony Richardson, 60, of Fort Smith include first-degree murder and one count of being a habitual offender, according to Daniel Shue, prosecuting attorney for the 12th Judicial District.

The habitual offender charge could result in a longer prison sentence if Richardson is found guilty of the murder, Shue said. It was applied in this case because Richardson has been convicted of four felonies in Sebastian County: one overdraft count, one possession of a firearm count and two counts of promoting prostitution, according to authorities.

His arraignment hearing on the recent charges is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. next Wednesday.

Richardson was arrested on Saturday in connection with theft charges related to the homicide, so he was served the additional arrest warrant at the Sebastian County jail, Arkansas State Police reported. 

The murder victim is Tonia Tran, 53, who investigators identified in an affidavit as Richardson’s girlfriend. 

Tran’s body was found in Franklin County off of Arkansas 186 on Aug. 10, and her cause of death was suffocation, authorities said.

Her 2005 Nissan Quest with California tags was found at a duplex in Fort Smith that was leased by Tran and where Richardson and his new girlfriend live, authorities said. Investigators found blood in the vehicle and a pattern indicating that a body had been dragged out of it, according to Chris Waters with the state police.

Investigators also found a bloody mattress, Tran’s citizenship paperwork and a bag of her clothes at the duplex, 1422-A N. 1st St., according to Waters. Authorities said a brand new mattress had been purchased for the duplex, too. 

In addition, Tran’s body was found wrapped in a comforter with a hummingbird and flower print that investigators said matched runners found at the duplex, authorities said.

The name of the woman reportedly living with Richardson hasn’t been released. According to Waters, she “bears a marked resemblance to the victim” and reportedly told police that she’d known Richardson for three days and that they were going to be married. 

Authorities obtained a search warrant and, on Saturday, searched another residence at 1404 N. 29th St., where they said Richardson had been working. T

The investigation is ongoing, several cell phones were seized, and additional search warrants have been obtained, according to authorities. 

The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory is working to determine whether the comforter wrapped around Tran’s body will yield DNA and fingerprint evidence, the release states.

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