Mississauga man found dead in Sarnia had been reported missing by family

Lambton OPP were parked on this spot on Gumbed Line near Crooked Road several days after a body was found there in a vehicle. That person now. Another man, Lance Richardson, 31, of Mississauga, died in a home on Watson St. in Sarnia.

Heather Wright/The Independent

Stefan Peters had a sinking feeling when he heard his client, Lance Richardson, was missing.

The lawyer had a reason to be concerned; his client had called Peters recently worried about how it might seem he’d brokered a deal with police to get out of some serious drug charges. That was the last time Peters talked to him.

Peters learned just before Christmas Richardson had not been in contact with his partner since Dec. 23, which was unusual. By Boxing Day, she had filed a missing person report about Richardson she was so concerned.

Peters’ “sinking feeling” and the fears of Richardson’s family were confirmed when Lambton OPP identified the 31 year-old as one of two people who died under suspicious circumstances in Lambton County.

Richardson, 31, was found in a home on Watson Street in Sarnia Dec. 28 a little more than an hour after Lambton OPP were called to an historic oil field in Oil Springs. There OPP said, they found human remains in a vehicle. Police linked the two deaths, however they have said little else about what might have led to the death of Richardson and the person who has yet to be identified by the OPP’s forensic experts. 

When police released the information Dec. 29, they said one person was in custody. It’s not clear who that was, if they have been charged or even if they are still in custody.

Police released Richardson’s identity Jan. 1. 

By that time, Richardson’s family had been raising alarm bells for days .

And they’d called Peters, the lawyer who represented the Mississauga man in the summer after he was arrested in a police raid where drugs – including fentanyl – and guns were seized.

The charges against him were serious. “There were a number of drug trafficking offenses and firearms offenses that were the result of a police raid,” says Peters. 

The lawyer told Richardson’s family he could face five to seven years in prison considering the seriousness of the charges, the drugs and weapons seized and his past drug convictions. 

Peters tried, but couldn’t get bail for Richardson after the raid. 

But then unexpectedly in October, the charges against the 31 year old were dropped. Peters tells The Independent he believed there was “a pretty major screw up” with the warrants that led to the raid, “especially when you’re talking about charges of this nature.”

Peters said he didn’t press the matter, satisfied his client was a free man.

Richardson’s history may have lead police to be extra careful. Richardson was convicted of six charges including robbery, assault causing bodily harm and threatening to cause death in an August 2014 incident where two people near the Yorkdale subway station were attacked. He spent 15 months in custody but he maintained his innocence from the beginning.

He told police he had conversations with two people involved in the robbery on an app called Vox, according to reporting in The Toronto Star.

The original investigating officer discounted the recordings saying she couldn’t understand what was being said nor who was speaking.

It took four years and two lawyers convinced of Richardson’s innocence to track down the voice messages which finally lead to his release on appeal in Dec. 2019. His case was labelled a wrongful conviction.

After he was released, Richardson told The Toronto Star he wanted to stay out of trouble, even though he was in jail facing more charges at the time.

Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and the father of a two year-old was again facing serious drug charges. 

By October, they had been dropped and Richardson had voiced his concerns about how it might look, a man facing serious drug charges which would carry serious time in prison being given a pass. 

In December, just before Christmas, Richardson told his partner he was going to visit friends in Sarnia for a few days before coming home for the holiday.

Peters got a call just before Christmas from Richardson’s partner. She had not heard from him since Dec. 23.

Days later, they heard a body had been found in Sarnia.

“I had just this sinking feeling in my gut, that something was wrong. I can’t even really explain it,” Peters says “but between him contacting me after his release and hearing that there were some sort of rumors going around and he was worried about that. I mean, I don’t know that it had anything to do with what happened. But when I got the call, and they couldn’t find him, and then like there was no, there was no activity on WhatsApp for a number of days and that wasn’t like him. 

“I just sort of had a sinking feeling in my gut.”

Peters says he was trying “to hope for the best… 

“Even when he said they found a body I was sort of holding out hope they would come back and it wasn’t him but I don’t know sometimes, I don’t know, it’s like cosmic or whatever you get a feeling and can’t really explain why you’re like ‘okay, there is something not right here.’ And that’s sort of the gut feeling I had.”

Peters said he had only known Richardson for a short period of time, but found him to be a gracious person.

“I went to see him for the first time, he was incredibly gracious, very soft spoken. 

“When we were in court, he was very respectful…. he just comes across as very kind. And you’d be shocked to see what his record looked like, and to see what type of charges he was facing because all around he was a sweet guy, incredibly respectful.”

And Peters says it was obvious he was active in his son’s life adding he “just came across as a caring, loving person.”