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How the Mitrice Richardson case was handled


It has been more than nine months since Mitrice Richardson went missing after she was released from the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff's station in the dark.

Numerous searches have failed to find her.

http://latimes.image2.trb.com/lanews/media/photo/2009-12/51058252.jpgOn Tuesday, her family filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County and Sheriff's Department officials. Citing video footage of Richardson in a holding cell that shows her behaving in an infantile manner, Latice Sutton blamed the Sheriff's Department for failing to give her daughter a medical or psychiatric evaluation.

The Sheriff's Department has maintained that Richardson seemed lucid and normal during the several hours she was held at the station.

Read more on the Richardson case here. In the video above, The Times' Carla Hall discusses the search for Richardson.

Should the Sheriff's Department have done more after Richardson was released? Share your view below.

Credit: Family photo

Comments () | Archives (18)

Firt let me say that I am very sorry for the pain that this family is going through, and I hope that she is found alive. But I also wonder if the family knew about her mental illness. Is it fair to blame the police department for not noticing that her behavior was a warning sign, when the behavior described might be abnormal for Mitrice, but not abnormal for what they see on a given night? Can you imagine if they illegally held people in jail after they could have been released because they are acting weird? I understand that if a peopson is over 18, it is extremely hard to force them to get help for mental illness, but is this just the tragic story of someone who was mentally ill? Is this family looking to point the blame because they may have ignored signs too? I thnk it is terrible that we have become such a litigious society, I am sorry for their pain, but I haven't heard anything that would lead me to believe that they are truly at fault fo this young woman's disappearance.

Crazy, check Mexico, human smugglers...

Simple fact is, this case has not been "handled" at all. Before Mitrice was even declared missing the Sheriff's office was in full cover-our-butt mode.

This is a complete sham as an "investigation", and someone in that Sheriff's office is directly responsible for her disappearance/death, in my opinion.

My heart is with the family of Mitrice...may they find her, and ultimately, some peace.

No man or woman should be released with no ID, no car ,no personal belongings ,to walk the highway in the dark , I hope the Richardsons shake the sheriff dept up and win big. Seeing with my own eyes this conduct, different but scary. The female officer that pulled me over because my license plate holder was too wide. sat me in the back of her car while she flung all of my credit cards and ID like a deck of cards at my chest , as each card hit me , bounced off and fell to the floor of her car I got more afraid I wasn't going to make it out of the remote area I was in .Having LAPD officers in my family I know there are good and bad . Sheriff Department officers are rude crude and ruthless .

What people fail 2 realize in this case is that the Sheriff's Dept, ie Law Enforcement are the professions. Part of their job is ensuring the well-being of a person when they are unable to care for themselves. Even taking the mental issues away from the equation. The main issue is whether or not it is appropriate to release a person (young woman) in the wee hours of the morning from custody without a phone, bus tokens, car etc. The Sheriff's were concerned enough about her behavior to even detain her in the first place. The powers that be should have simply taken her to a medical facility for and evaluation or call in the professionals. There are laws on the books that require police to do such things. God forbid this ever happens to you or your loved ones. It may have been clear to some that Mitrice was acting a bit out of the ordinary...but a for the average young woman with no history of trouble...A few hours in jail would send them over the edge.

And if the deputies had held her because of her "erratic" behavior, they'd be condemned as racist.

Justina - totally agree with you. Take everything else out of this - the fact that they let a young woman walk out the door in the middle of the night with no purse, cell phone, anything - in itself makes them complicit. How can people be so heartless and incompetent all at the same time? WTF is this world coming to...

And if they keep someone because they "seem off", they get sued for violations of rights and liberties... What precisely do you expect them to do? Only hire psychiatrists to work in jails? Force a psychiatric evaluation before they release anyone? They can't HOLD someone just because they "seem off". There's no charge for that.

I realize there's a need to blame and vent, but the state this person was in was "wrong" to those who knew her well but far from obviously ill. She's NOT a minor, so it's a violation of her rights to force a call to her parents. In the end, a combination of factors put in place to protect her rights worked against her. Every system has side effects. This is one of them. You cannot expect police officers to judge the competence of an individual to a 100% grade in minutes when the legal system debates months on the subject with the aid of expert testimony. This isn't about "bad" or "good" cops, it's about an adult's right and requirement to walk out of a building.

The mother needs a scapegoat, I get that. But if you expect these officers to notice, what reason eliminates the guilt of friends, family, and others who witnessed her behaviour throughout the days and hours beforehand, other than their ability to pay?

Stop being an idiot, the LASD is guilty of neglect.
They didn't give a squat about Mitrice's safety so relocated her to a remote area, lied to her mother as to her release hour.
May have killed Mitrice in custody or after they released her along the highway, you think law enforcement is populated by professionals?
Nope sorry the boys in blue are just as deranged and crimminal as the suspects we hire they to catch, so are capable of committing and covering up crimes.

This is a tragedy. How can Metrice's family sleep at night?

I agree with the family spokesperson that "if her last name had been Spears of Lohan", she would have been given a police escort to her front door. And we all know their legal track records.

As her mother has stated, she was behaving strangely on the police video that was shown to her and has a legitimate concern about her daughter's safety.

I hope the L.A. Police are doing everything to find her.

@marlena: Interesting possibility but you do realize the implications of human trafficking, it means members of the LASD are directly involved.
It was after all officers of the LASD who arrested Mitrice and impounded all of Mitrice's personal belongings, furthermore it was the LASD who purposely decieved Mitrice's mother as to the time she would be released making her the perfect victem of abduction or much worse.
The Officer's involved including Baca need to be under Federal investigation if this case is ever to be solved.

Nah, this loons family is just looking for a huge payday by blaming the Sheriff's Dept for her disappearance. Putting blame on the Sheriff's Dept for failing to give their daughter a medical or psychiatric evaluation, which should have been the FAMILY'S responsibility in the first place! Her grandmother should have followed up on her since she knew she was in trouble to begin with. So it looks like her family didn't care enough to come pick her up in the first place. Shame on this family!

Kathy, you could not have said it better. I don't care if she was perfectly sane. You can not release a 20 year old sane healthy MMA star man on the streets in a vulnerable position like this girl was released. Least of the mother's concerns are winning that case. They will win this case for certain and be reward millions.

I lived in Malibu for many years and have been at that Sheriffs station to deal with a parking violation. It is in the middle of The Santa Monica Mountains a place which is quite wild and pristine still. From 9p.m. onwards it is pitch black outside of that station. I personally do not think it is out of the question that had she been wandering around late at night she could have been attacked by wild animals. There are mountain Lions in that area as a recent map released by the parks dept showed. I support a law suit against that Sheriffs Station and a boycott of Geoffreys formerly one of my favorite restaurants.

Ms. Hall, thank you for remaining with this story.

There is so much truth for us yet to come to terms with.

But that is the only way for healing to occur and to begin to build a better future.

You have my permission to use and edit anything i submit in any way and to any
extent which you deem purposeful.

Sheriff Lee Baca's handling of the Mitrice Richardson case will be his Watergate.

He may be allowed to avoid the prison cell, but others who have been tasked
to violate the law in service of the cover-up will be doing federal time.

Like President Nixon, his inability to curb an insatiable quest for absolute
control will lead to a forfeiture of his title and the poisoning of his public reputation.

Even though Mr. Baca himself never met Ms. Richardson, the inhumanity that is the essence of the entirety of his departments conduct in her case
can only be explained by a drive for power that leaves no room for conscience .

He has leveraged everything in order to remain infallible and in doing
will leave a department severely crippled and in crisis.

That is the legacy of creating loyalty through maintaining and promoting
allies whose allegiance is derived from controlling the secrecy of their

The hoax that he has orchestrated before the eyes of the anxiety stricken
mother and father of this beautiful, vivacious, incredibly decent daughter
who each are also our lifelong neighbors here in Los Angeles - is so shameful
that we can already feel the illness it is causing the entire department.

The cancer is at the top - that is where the surgery must begin.

It saddens me that the human race can exhibit such insensitivity. All one has to do is imagine Mitrice to be their loved one and reflect on how you'd want her to be treated. Excluding her behavior, how about the sheriff department (trained professionals) exercising some common sense. If they took the time to go to the restaurant, gather facts from personnel at the restaurant, arrest her, search her car, have the car impounded, prepare a police report, and do some form of investigating to gather facts for the report...basically for an infraction that simply merits a ticket. You mean they could not extend some compassion to make sure this young woman made it home safely. Mitrice's mom called the sheriff station several times that evening and I believe they deliberately misrepresented the time Mitrice would be release. Their inability to protect and serve, demonstrate common sense reeks of guilt.

The sheriffs office offered her to sleep in a cell or the lobby to wait for someone to pick her up!


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