Tricia McCauley was loved by everyone in her D.C. theatre and her yoga communities.

She was reliable and loyal. That's why when she didn't show up for a Christmas dinner with friends, they were immediately concerned.

When Tricia McCauley didn't show up for Christmas dinner this past December, her friends and loved ones immediately sprung into action.

An intense manhunt in the nation's capital. And then a big break from an unlikely detective duo.

Tricia McCauley, 46, spends her day baking a pie and making her signature Brussels sprouts for a holiday dinner party that night. Around 4:30 p.m. she posts on her Facebook page: "I'm on my way." But sadly, Tricia will never make it. Tricia McCauley vanished on Christmas Day 2016.

Everyone who knows Tricia wants her home safe and sound. And she knows a lot of people. Tricia is an actress heavily involved in the D.C. theatre scene and even making a few big-screen appearances in such movies as Step Up, where she was Jenna Dewan Tatum's stand-in.

Tricia is also a beloved yoga instructor. Jimmy White works for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, but admits this case is personal.

"She was my yoga instructor," said White. "She taught us a lot, especially in those classes about life and about perspective. Like I said, she just had a really positive energy."

And it was the same from the people at Yoga District, where she taught.

But then, where is she? Tricia's friends and family spend Sunday, Christmas Day, searching for her. The next day Tricia is set to board a flight home to visit family in Oregon. Everyone is hoping she will make that flight. But Tricia never boards.

"That's when it became an emergency," said Jimmy White.

Now, the day after Christmas, Metro P.D. lists Tricia McCauley as a critical missing person, meaning her life is in immediate danger and every second counts when it comes to finding her. Then cops get a game-changing tip: a report of an assault at a nearby drug store.

The man involved in the altercation is reportedly seen fleeing the area, and his getaway car is believed to be Tricia's vehicle. The Metro Police Department released a photo of the man captured by store surveillance cameras. They also release additional pictures of Tricia's car.

The white Scion iQ is distinctive for its tiny appearance and even more unique, on Tricia's car, she has a bumper sticker on the back that reads "Plant More Plants."

Detectives figure if they can find Tricia's car it will lead them to Tricia.

"They work night and day to bring this to a successful conclusion," said White.

While police scour D.C. looking for the suspect, a big break: A chilling chance encounter is about to unfold. A little dog name "Daisy" is begging her owner, Jonathan Padget, to go for a walk. He obliges and grabs his cellphone.

And Jonathan is closely following the news of Tricia's disappearance, they know each other from the D.C. theater scene.

"Police had just released the photo. I was outside walking my dog when I saw the photo," Padget.

In a Crime Watch Daily exclusive, Padget says he had no idea he was about come go face to face with the man who took his friend.

"I wasn't thinking at that moment, like 'OK, I need to keep my eyes peeled for this guy' because I just didn't think I would see him in my neighborhood," said Padget. "I just kind of filed it away I'm thinking you know, I won't see this guy."

Then within minutes of looking at the photo of the suspect on his cellphone, Padget and Daisy turn the corner and...

"The guy's sitting there in the car on the other side of the street," said Padget.

Beloved actress and yoga instructor Tricia McCauley is missing. Then, Metro Police get a call of an assault at a nearby drugstore where eyewitnesses claim a man left the scene driving Tricia's car. Police release a snapshot from the store's surveillance cameras hoping it will lead them to the suspect and to Tricia herself.

And just minutes after cops release the photo, Jonathan Padget spots the wanted man.

"I noticed the guy because he's got the music turned all the way up, he's bouncing around in the car, he's smoking something, in many ways calling attention to himself," said Padget.

And seemingly looking for a confrontation.

"And he just stares at me really intently, and I stare back because I instantly think this is the guy," said Padget.

Like so many people in the community, Jonathan Padget knows Tricia McCauley. They ran in the same theatre circles in D.C. And right now, Padget plans to act his way through this terrifying situation.

"He leans out the window and goes 'Hello sir! How are you?' And I just, I mean I really sort of froze up, but I didn't freeze, because I just realized instantaneously something's going down and it's not good and I have to something, I have to do something effective and so we step up on the sidewalk, I've got my phone and I'm like 'Oh, I'm fine sir, how are you?'" said Padget.

"He whips out onto P Street, does a 'U' and goes south on 21st," said Padget.

In seconds, Padget is on the phone to police.

"They were dispatching units as we spoke," said Padget.

Metro P.D. officers swarm the suspect found inside another convenience store just a few streets away. He's arrested on simple assault charges from the earlier altercation that same day. And when cops pat him down, they find Tricia's credit cards and car keys. Then police search Tricia's car parked just outside.

Tricia's lifeless body is found wedged between the front and back seats.

The coroner rules Tricia's death a homicide. The autopsy report states the cause of death as asphyxia due to ligature strangulation with blunt-force trauma.

"It was an absolutely horrible act that happened to her and it is one of the most egregious things that could happen to anybody, especially on Christmas," said Jimmy White.

The suspect is identified as 29-year-old Adrian Johnson. He tells police he met Tricia for the first time on Christmas Day and claims Tricia offered him a ride, and sex. Johnson told police he and Tricia McCauley had sex and that she was suicidal and hanged herself in her vehicle while he stood outside. He also said "If someone is suicidal and gives you all their stuff, is that illegal?"

"The actual facts of the altercation between Tricia and the suspect are still up for investigation, we're still trying to figure it out and piece it all together," said White.

But police have enough to charge Adrian Johnson with the first-degree murder of Tricia McCauley. And this is not Adrian Johnson's first brush with the law: The suspect's rap sheet shows six arrests in the past year.

"We're talking about robberies, force, and violence. We're talking about assaults. And these violent crimes, they tend to just build upon each other," said White.

And some residents of D.C. say Tricia's murder was completely preventable. According to police, on December 21, just four days before Christmas, and Tricia's murder, Adrian Johnson was supposed to make a court appearance to show that he had complied with a previous court order to get an ankle monitor put on.

Tragically for the victim, the suspect was a no-show in court and a warrant was never issued.

"And as a result of the current system in place, nothing that has to do with the police officers or anybody at MPD, with the current system in place, they just let that fall through the cracks, and they're like 'Oh, we'll just handle it in January,' and that's absolutely disgusting," said Jimmy White.

Because of this alleged gap in the system, new legislation has been passed since Tricia McCauley's murder concerning the GPS ankle-monitoring program. But according to people who knew and loved Tricia, it is a little too late and still more needs to be done.

Adrian Johnson's stepfather, Russell Dixon, told the Washington Post that his stepson had suffered from mental illness and was living on the streets, but said he "never saw any aggression."

Adrian Johnson remains behind bars.

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