New Charges against Husband of Missing Merced Woman

April 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Randal Wright is now facing four felony counts, but none of them are related to his wife's disappearance.Randal Wright appeared before a judge Thursday morning for a hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to send him to trial for auto theft. But the hearing was postponed because prosecutors have added embezzlement and insurance fraud charges to the complaint.

Deputy District Attorney Steven Slocom said, "The insurance fraud count is connected to the original reports on the theft of the vehicle."

Defense Attorney Tom Pheiff said, "We're contending that none of this is legitimate, these are small time allegations and really without basis, we just think we're going to prevail on this in the end."

Merced County Sheriff's Deputies said Wright dropped off a $105,000 dollar Mercedes at a dealership in Fresno, stopped making payments, and then stole it from the lot in December.

Mexican state police recently found the car at a property in San Felipe that's managed by Wright's alleged girlfriend, 45 year old Teresa Hutt. Detectives have now brought the car back to Merced, but they are still working to have Hutt extradited to face conspiracy charges.

"Detectives went down to the border to meet her to bring her back to arrest her on the $500,000 dollar warrant we have, when Mexican authorities got her to the border there was a problem with customs because she is a Canadian citizen and they couldn't deport her or extradite her into California," said Merced County Sheriff's Deputy Tom Mackenzie.

While in Mexico, detectives also continued their investigation into the disappearance of Wright's wife, Karen. The 50 year old was last seen at one of the couple's vacation homes in San Felipe in February. Family members said Karen was in the middle of a messy divorce when she went missing. Randal Wright is not facing any charges tied to her disappearance, but authorities say the investigation is on-going. "While they're down there of course they're gong to take advantage of everything they can and every chance they have to follow up on any leads down there," said Mackenzie.

Detectives are also actively looking into the disappearance of two of Wright's employees at R.T.S. Towing who went missing in 1993. But the 59-year-old has not been named a suspect in that case either.

Wright's defense attorney said authorities have no evidence against his client in any of the missing persons cases so they're pursuing smaller false accusations instead. But prosecutors claim the evidence to support these latest charges will come out during a hearing that's set for Monday.

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