FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Fort Smith man is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of a woman found dead off Highway 186 in Franklin County.
According to an affidavit from the Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, on Aug. 10, the body of Tonia Tran was found wrapped in drop cloth and a blanket on Highway 186. After an autopsy at the Arkansas State Crime Lab, signs indicated Tran had died of suffocation.
The report states there was evidence she had also been battered and sexually assaulted. Upon further investigations, authorities identified Tran and determined she had moved to Fort Smith within the last two months and moved in with her boyfriend, Maurice Anthony Richardson, 60, at 1422-A N 41st St.
Investigators later executed a search warrant on Aug. 20 at the duplex home and Tran’s minivan, which was parked at the home. Police interviewed Richardson and another woman who had moved in with him.
In the report, police are described as seeing a new mattress in the home as well as runners in the house that matched the exact pattern found on the blanket wrapped around the victim.
The woman now living with Richardson reportedly told police they had known each other for three days and planned to get married. Police then searched Tran’s minivan and found blood.
After executing a search warrant at another home Richardson was reportedly working on, located at 1404 N. 29th St., police found a bloody mattress, citizenship paperwork for Tran, and a bag of her clothing.
Police have sent the blanket and other materials covering the victim’s body to the state crime lab to search for DNA evidence.
Richardson was arrested and is facing a first-degree murder charge and a habitual offender charge. He has a recommended bond of $500,000.
Richardson is set to be arraigned on Aug. 31 at 8:30 a.m.