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Father of missing woman files claim against L.A. County

March 16, 2010 |  2:55 pm

Mitrice Richardson The father of a woman missing for six months since being released from the sheriff's station in Calabasas filed a claim for damages Tuesday against Los Angeles County, alleging that deputies were negligent in their care of her.

Michael Richardson’s claim alleges that deputies “failed to respond reasonably to a suspect who exhibited signs of mental illness.” The document is similar to one filed two months ago by Latice Sutton, the mother of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson.

The night Mitrice Richardson was arrested at a Malibu restaurant for not paying her bill, patrons and staffers at Geoffrey's described her actions as bizarre. Since her disappearance, police detectives discovered evidence that she was suffering from severe bipolar disorder.

“This is just a drastic step we have to take,” Michael Richardson said Tuesday outside the Hahn Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles.

”His only goal is to find Mitrice Richardson," said his attorney, Benjamin Schonbrun, who later characterized the claim as an “attempt to hold accountable those that released a mentally imbalanced young woman into the darkness of night without so much as a mental evaluation.”

Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have maintained that they released Richardson in a timely manner at 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2009. They said they told her she could stay at the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff’s station as long as she needed.

Her car -- which contained her cellphone and purse -- had been impounded upon her arrest.

But on Tuesday, Richardson lashed out at law enforcement officials and local politicians for not working hard enough to find his daughter. He said county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had not returned his phone calls for the last month, and he criticized U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) for not doing enough.

Both public officials represent the district where Richardson was living before she vanished.

“All the people who didn’t respond to me -- it’s voting time,” Richardson declared.

Waters did make a formal request for the FBI to get involved, and last fall Ridley-Thomas directed the sheriff’s department to review events surrounding Mitrice Richardson's release from jail, as well as their general procedures for custody release.

Ridley-Thomas also prompted the Board of Supervisors to issue and extend a reward for information leading to her whereabouts. Authorities have conducted four searches of Malibu Canyon, and two LAPD detectives were assigned to the case full time up until several weeks ago.

But both Richardson and Sutton said Tuesday they believe authorities were not pursuing the search aggressively.

“They haven’t been returning phone calls. They just dropped this,” Sutton said. “We’ve been trying to get drones out to search Malibu Canyon.”

Sutton said she was still waiting for the sheriff’s department to approve a remote-controlled aircraft search of Malibu Canyon for signs of her daughter.

-- Carla Hall at the Hahn Hall of Administration in downtown L.A.

Photo: Mitrice Richardson has been missing since Sept. 17.