Jason Russell Richardson pleaded not guilty Friday to shooting and killing Tom Egan, a night manager at the Tustin Marketplace Home Depot, while robbing the store Feb. 9.
In a court appearance that lasted just seconds, Richardson, a convicted rapist who had been out on parole for spousal abuse, stood shackled and chained as he entered his plea through his attorney, Hector M. Chaparro of the county's Associate Defender's Office.
"That's good," Richardson, 36, said when Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino asked Richardson if June 11 would work for a preliminary hearing – when a judge decides if prosecutors have enough evidence to take their case to trial. Richardson could get the death penalty if convicted.
Egan, a 40-year-old father of twin girls, was shot once in the abdomen when he tried to stop a man dressed in painter coveralls, dust mask and yellow construction helmet from robbing his store. Egan, who stayed on hours after his shift had ended, begged the man to leave the store and not to hurt anyone, police said.
Egan pleaded with the man to leave as he grabbed wads of cash from the register. The heavily disguised man turned and shot him once. Surveillance tape shows the shooter stepping over Egan's body as he walked out of the store. He got away with about $500.
Egan died a short time later at a hospital.
A massive manhunt was on for the shooter. Less than two weeks later, Tustin police arrested Richardson, 36, in Oceanside when he went to check in with his parole officer. Digitally enhanced surveillance video led investigators to a dirty sock dropped inside the Home Depot. Forensic scientists matched DNA from the sock to a DNA sample Richardson was forced to give after his 1992 rape conviction.
At a Feb. 23 news conference announcing Richardson's arrest, Tustin police said Richardson had been convicted of sexual assault on a child. In fact, Richardson pleaded guilty to burglary, rape and forced oral copulation and was sentenced to six years in prison. In 2002, he was sentenced to four years for spousal abuse.