Death of Mitrice Richardson
Mitrice Lavon Richardson
April 30, 1985
|Disappeared||September 17, 2009 (aged 24)|
|Body discovered||August 9, 2010, Monte Nido, California, United States|
|Alma mater||California State University, Fullerton|
|Occupation||Executive assistant, dancer|
|Known for||Missing person from South Los Angeles, California, United States;|
Mitrice Lavon Richardson (born April 30, 1985 – remains found August 9, 2010) was a 24-year-old American woman who went missing on September 17, 2009 after being released from a Calabasas, California jail, where she had been taken after behaving erratically at a restaurant. She was subsequently found deceased 11 months later in August 2010.
Richardson's parents have maintained that their daughter should never have been released on her own by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, given her obviously disturbed condition. In 2011, they won civil lawsuits against the county of $900,000 in damages. In January 2017, the California Attorney General's office concluded an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Richardson's release from jail and decided not to bring charges against anyone involved in her release.
Early life and education
Richardson was a graduate of South Hills High School in West Covina, California. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 2008. She had been a beauty pageant contestant.
She was the daughter of Latice Sutton and Michael Richardson. She was raised by her mother and stepfather Larry Sutton in Covina, California. Mitrice Richardson was lesbian, and at the time of her death, had been dating girlfriend Tessa Moon for about two years.
On the evening of September 16, 2009, Richardson entered the parking lot of Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu. Due to what staff and patrons at the restaurant described as "bizarre" behavior and the fact that she was unable to pay her $89 bill, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department from the Malibu/Lost Hills Station was called to assess her condition. The officers on the scene purportedly administered a field sobriety test and determined that she was not intoxicated and not under the influence of any substance. She was arrested on charges of "suspicion of not paying for the meal" and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
According to the arresting officers, upon her arrest, her phone, purse and money were secured in her car and her car was towed to a tow yard on the Pacific Coast Highway. Richardson was detained and booked at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station approximately ten miles up Malibu Canyon.
Although Richardson's mother informed the station of concern for her daughter's mental health, and despite promises from the station personnel that she would not be released until later in the morning, Richardson was released on September 17, 2009, at 12:28 AM with no belongings and no means of calling for assistance. Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said Richardson was released from jail because "She exhibited no signs of mental illness or intoxication. She was fine. She's an adult."
Several hours later, at 6:30 AM, she was seen in the backyard of former KTLA news anchor Bill Smith in Monte Nido. When Smith opened his window and asked if she was OK, Richardson told Smith that she was "resting." Neighbors stated that they heard a woman's voice in the tennis courts of Smith's home. Others stated that they heard and saw Richardson either leaving or attempting to enter Smith's home and that she had been in the presence of a man who frequented the home for a few days after her disappearance. Neighbors also stated that they heard loud screams in a vacant home around the time that Richardson went missing. They stated that the police were called.
On January 9, 2010, four months after she was reported missing, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department conducted one of the largest-scale searches in the history of the department. Over 300 volunteers trained in search and rescue operations participated in the 18-square-mile search in the area of Malibu Canyon. The search included both air and ground searches of creeks, trails, and ridges. Richardson was not found during this search.
Maurice Dubois, father of slain Escondido, California, teen Amber Dubois, assisted Richardson's family in a two-day search on June 5 and 6, 2010, in the Monte Nido, California, area of Malibu Canyon. Over 100 private-citizen volunteers participated in the search of the area. Although Richardson's remains were not discovered, searchers found racially and sexually offensive graffiti on the walls of a culvert in the canyon. The graffiti was freshly painted and paint cans, brushes and other potential evidence were left at the scene.
The creek bed in Malibu Canyon where Richardson's naked mummified remains were eventually discovered is adjacent to a 21-acre ranch that is known for producing pornography. It is very secluded and has direct access to the creek bed. When her body was discovered, the detectives on the case removed her body against the order of the coroner. Though residents reportedly heard screams in that area several nights after Richardson disappeared, her death was deemed to not be a homicide; there was no foul play.
Richardson's disappearance was covered on an episode of Disappeared on the Investigation Discovery channel, entitled "Lost in the Dark"; it first aired on November 19, 2012 as the Season 6 premiere.
Richardson's family has filed several lawsuits against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for releasing her from jail even though, they claim, she was experiencing severe bipolar disorder at the time. In 2011, her parents, who had sued separately, were awarded $450,000 each. Richardson's girlfriend, Tessa Moon, refutes claims that Richardson had any mental illness.
Richardson's family also asked the California Attorney General's office to review the sheriff's office's handling of the case. In November 2015, after reviewing 500 pages of documents sent with the request, the office of California then-Attorney General Kamala Harris replied that it had not found any grounds for criminal charges against the sheriff or his deputies. The Attorney General's office also found no evidence that the sheriff's office had mishandled Richardson's family's complaint against it. However, in January 2016, the California Attorney General's office reversed itself and announced it was beginning a criminal investigation of the case.
On December 30, 2016, the California Attorney General's office concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution of anyone involved in the handling of the case.
- List of California State University, Fullerton people
- List of people who disappeared
- List of unsolved deaths
- Abram, Susan (2017-01-31). "Mitrice Richardson's family speaks out as state says deputies shouldn't be prosecuted in her death". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2017-05-03.
- Blankstein, Andrew; Hall, Carla (2010-08-12). "No Signs of Foul Play in Mitrice Richardson's Death, Authorities Say [Updated]". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Hall, Carla; Rubin, Joel (2010-07-29). "Mitrice Richardson May Have Been Spotted in Las Vegas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
Her parents, who have never been a couple, are divided on whether the new sightings are real.
- Kessler, Mike (2011-09-01). "What Happened to Mitrice Richardson?". Los Angeles. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
She knew Covina and the suburbs east of L.A., where she grew up with her mother and stepfather. She knew Fullerton, where she graduated with honors from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in psychology the year before, in 2008. She knew Long Beach, where she worked Friday nights as a go-go dancer. She knew South L.A., where her father lived and where she resided with her great-grandmother at 118th and Central. Malibu was not Mitrice's turf.
- Boverman, Neal (2009-11-16). "Where is Mitrice Richardson". The Advocate. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
- Blankstein, Andrew; Hall, Carla. "Long search for Mitrice Richardson comes to tragic end". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
- "Mitrice Richardson Arrested, Released, then Disappeared: Are the Cops to Blame?". cbsnews.com. 2009-09-25. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
- Kessler, Mike (2011-09-01). "What Happened To Mitrice Richardson". Los Angeles. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
- Hall, Carla (2010-01-09). "Search for Mitrice Richardson Draws 300 Volunteers to Malibu, Canyon". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
- Chapman, Justin (2010-07-22). "The Handwriting on the Wall". Pasadena Weekly. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
- Coleman, Andre (2011-07-14). "Uncovering the truth". Pasadena Weekly. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- Hall, Carla; Blankstein, Andrew (2010-08-13). "Long Search for Mitrice Richardson Comes to Tragic End". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Duke, Alan (2010-08-13). "Remains Found in Malibu Canyon Identified as Mitrice Richardson". CNN. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- "Disappeared: Lost in the Dark". IMDb. 2012-11-19. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- Faturechi, Robert (2011-08-23). "Mitrice Richardson: $900,000 Settlement Tentatively Reached". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Salazar, Denise (2011-05-25). "Mother of Dead CSUF Grad Files Another Lawsuit". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Abram, Susan (2016-02-02). "California attorney general opens criminal investigation into Sheriff's Department over Mitrice Richardson case". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 2016-02-13.