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Arkansas Man Charged With Girlfriend's Murder, Moved Lookalike Fiancée Into Her Home

Just days after the body of Tonia Tran was found wrapped in a comforter on the side of a highway, police say her boyfriend, Maurice Richardson, gave Tran's wedding rings to his new girlfriend, whom he'd only known for three days.

A police handout of Maurice Richardson

A man is in custody after police say he brutally murdered his girlfriend before dumping her body on the side of an Arkansas highway.

Maurice Anthony Richardson, 60, was charged with first-degree murder for the death of Tonia Tran, 53, said Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Shue in a statement to Oxygen.com.

According to an arrest affidavit signed by the Arkansas State Police, the victim was physically battered, sexually assaulted and suffocated before being left on the side of Highway 186 near Atlus — less than 50 miles east of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

State police responded to a report of a dead Asian woman on Aug. 10, according to the charging documents. The then-unidentified woman's body was first wrapped in plastic sheeting and then in a comforter with a hummingbird-and-flower print before being dumped.

The victim was later identified as Tonia Tran through a serial number on a breast implant. After learning her identity, police also learned that, less than two months before her death, Tran had moved from Garden Grove, California — a southeast suburb of Los Angeles — to Fort Smith and rented a brick duplex on 41st Street.

Her boyfriend, Maurice Richardson of Fort Smith, allegedly also lived in the duplex Tran had rented.

“Officers obtained a search warrant for the residence and the vehicle, which were executed on Aug. 20, 2022,” according to the affidavit. “During the execution of the search warrant, contact was made with Maurice Richardson (the boyfriend of Ms. Tran), who had moved another Asian female into the residence.”

Police said the new woman was Richardson’s “new girlfriend” and that she “bears a marked resemblance to the victim.”

The woman was also wearing the victim’s wedding rings.

“The new girlfriend advised police that she has known the defendant for three days and that they are now going to be married,” police wrote.

Inside Tran’s duplex, investigators found “a brand new mattress in the residence, as well as runners in the house that exactly matched the hummingbird/flower pattern on the comforter/blanket found around the victim.”

Tran’s 2005 Nissan Quest minivan with California plates was also found at the residence. Police said the van revealed a blood pattern indicative of a body being dragged from the vehicle.

Parts of the affidavit were redacted — including how officers were led to a residence on North 29th Street, about 10 blocks away from Tran’s home. Some residents of that neighborhood told officials that Richardson was doing some housework for their neighbors across the street, prompting police to obtain a search warrant for that home.

Inside, investigators found a bloody mattress, citizenship paperwork belonging to Tran and a bag of the victim’s clothing.

Special Agents with the Arkansas State Police arrested Richardson on Saturday and booked him into the Sebastian County Detention Center, where he is being held on $500,000 cash-only bond. Jail records show he is also charged with theft of a motor vehicle.

He is listed in jail records and by the prosecuting attorney’s office as a habitual offender, which could increase his sentence were he to be convicted of Tran's murder. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Richardson’s previous felony convictions include firearm possession and promoting prostitution. (Under Arkansas law, only first degree promoting prostitution is considered a felony. It is defined as either: profiting from or advancing the prostitution of a victim under 18; or "compelling a person by physical force or intimidation to engage in prostitution, or profit[ing] from such coercive conduct by another.")

Richardson is scheduled for arraignment on Aug. 25 for the murder charge.

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