LA County Sheriff finds remains of Mitrice Richardson [Updated]

Mitrice Richardson's father Michael Richardson at a press conference on Aug. 12, 2010. He wears his daughter's photo on his chest.
Mitrice Richardson's father Michael Richardson at a press conference on Aug. 12, 2010. He wears his daughter's photo on his chest. Shirley Jahad/KPCC

Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials this morning announced they found the remains of 25-year-old Mitrice Richardson in a remote area of Malibu. She was missing for 11 months since she was arrested and released in the middle of the night from the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station.

Richardson’s family is suing the sheriff’s department.

Park rangers found Mitrice Richardson’s skeletal remains in a remote area of Malibu Canyon with no trails around. They were checking the site of an old marijuana farm when they happened upon the remains, said L.A. County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

“They discovered a skull, a pelvis and a leg. Just bones. We helicoptered in investigators. And we helicoptered in the coroners investigators. After a forensic dentist looked at it and an anthropologist looked at it, they determined officially and unfortunately it was Mitrice Richardson.”

Coroner’s officials haven’t determined the cause of death. They say Richardson’s body was in the canyon for more than six months.

“Homicide will continue their investigation," Whitmore says. "It’s likely we will never figure out how she got there. But they are going to do their best to figure that out, so that is still under investigation.”

The discovery and identification leave the young woman’s family with a lot of unanswered questions. Richardson’s friends and relatives came to the news conference at the sheriff’s department headquarters in Monterey Park, even though they say authorities had not notified them about it.

“What I am is a grieving father.”

Michael Richardson spoke with reporters after he heard the grim news.

“Of course I’m sad. I’m deeply hurt. I so wanted the outcome to be different. My daughter. She’s such a fantastic person. I miss her dearly. And I’m not ready for it. I miss her," he said as his eyes welled with tears.

Since the young woman disappeared, he and other relatives have said sheriffs’ deputies had made mistakes that could have placed her in danger.

Last September, the owners of a Malibu restaurant made a citizen’s arrest of Mitrice Richardson after she acted strangely. She apparently suffered from mental health problems and couldn’t – or wouldn’t - pay her tab.

Richardson’s grandmother did agree over the phone to pay the $89 bill with a credit card, but the restaurant refused and insisted on receiving a fax of the credit card. L.A. County deputies took Richardson to the Lost Hills lockup. They released her in the middle of the night, even though she had no car and no ride.

The woman’s father Michael Richardson said something about the story doesn’t add up.

”Eighty-nine dollars in an area where the cheapest house is $2.5 million. Come on, people. This is not justice. Her mother offered to pick her up five times. It’s clearly a setup by someone. No car. No cell. No purse. No money. This is unheard of.”

He and other relatives filed two lawsuits against the sheriff’s department. Sheriff’s officials point to an independent review released last month that says officers acted responsibly in the case. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca has suggested that his department should reconsider the procedure for citizens’ arrests.

Richards says he has discovered his daughter suffered from bipolar disorder. He remembers her as a high achiever, a beauty pageant competitor and a graduate of Cal State Fullerton.

"Mitrice was an outstanding child. She was the best at what she did. Four-point-O. Honor student. Dean’s list, best dancer, best competitor. Best cheerleader. Remember her as an outstanding Richardson.”

Michael Richardson said he’s working to change state law so authorities can’t release people they detain in the middle of the night without a way to get home.

The L.A. County Office of Independent Review exonerated deputies of negligence accusations in a report released Thursday, concluding that they made a "reasonable and prudent'' decision to arrest Richardson and acted within departmental policy when they released her.

Original story:

Human remains found Monday in a Malibu ravine were identified today as the remains of Mitrice Richardson, who went missing in September after being released from the sheriff's department's Malibu-Lost Hills Station.

At a mid-morning news conference, Sheriff Lee Baca said he had learned about 9 a.m. that the identification of the remains had been made.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said the cause of death was being "deferred," pending further investigation, but that there was nothing "obvious" to indicate foul play. The remains appeared to have been there for months, Winter said.

Richardson went missing in September after being released from sheriff's Malibu-Lost Hills Station.

The skull and bones were discovered about 1 p.m. Monday when state rangers were searching an abandoned marijuana patch in the unincorporated Monte Nido area.

The remains were found several miles from the sheriff's station from which Richardson was released.

Baca said deputies followed acted properly, but added, "properly doesn't mean we couldn't have done something more."

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