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No signs of foul play in Mitrice Richardson's death, authorities say [Updated]

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At a contentious news conference Thursday morning to announce the identification of the skeletal remains of Mitrice Richardson, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca acknowledged that the circumstances of her arrest and release merits further investigation, but declined further comment -- saying it was a time for her parents to grieve.

He said there are no signs of foul play, and no official cause of death has been listed.

"Life is fragile," Baca said. "The circumstances of this case are tragic. I am mindful of the fact that a mother and father are in deep grieving at this moment."

Richardson vanished nearly a year ago after being released from the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff's Station. Her body was discovered less than two miles away.

Her arrest for being unable to pay an $89 dinner tab at a Malibu restaurant and her subsequent release in the dark hours of the early morning last Sept. 17 without a car, cellphone or purse sparked widespread criticism of Sheriff's Department personnel and triggered two lawsuits accusing the department of negligence.

Some questioned L.A. County Sheriff's Department's procedures for releasing people at night as well as whether she should have been held for a mental health evaluation after she acted bizarrely at the restaurant.

[Updated at 10:35 a.m.: The Office of Independent Review, which oversees the Sheriff's Department, found that the department "properly and legally" released Richardson, according to a 58-page draft report. The report says that the station personnel "were not negligent in determining that Ms. Richardson did not demonstrate any symptoms of an existing mental health illness."

The report reiterated what sheriff's officials said initially -- that jailers had offered to let Richardson stay in a cell or the station lobby until she could arrange transportation.

Updated at 11:42 a.m.: Baca at times spared with reporters, who asked about whether the family was informed of the identification before the press conference. Both Baca and the coroner's office said the family had been called before the press conference. Baca also fielded questions from reports about whether the Richardson should have been arrested to begin with.]

The identification of the remains, found deep in a ravine by park rangers checking for marijuana plants, brings to a grim close the much-publicized mystery over the whereabouts of the Cal State Fullerton graduate who would have celebrated her 25th birthday in April.

And at a time when law enforcement agencies and the media have been accused of devoting less attention to minorities who go missing than to pretty white women who disappear, Richardson — a black woman who was a strikingly attractive former beauty pageant contestant — got extraordinary attention, becoming a high-profile enough case to make the cover of People magazine last fall along with several other missing people.

Over several months, law enforcement carried out four searches — the last being the most extensive ever undertaken by the county -- covering a total of 40 square miles of Malibu Canyon, while investigators from the L.A. Police Department spent months tracking clues and were eventually joined by L.A. Sheriff's Department detectives. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas got the county to offer a reward for information leading to her whereabouts. Friends and family followed up on sightings and arranged a fifth search of the canyon by unmanned drones. "If you knew how many buses I've chased down," Ronda Hampton, a psychologist who was friends with Richardson, said recently.

Earlier this summer, Los Angeles investigators scoured Las Vegas for the missing woman after a friend of Richardson's from her teen years said he saw her at a bar in a Las Vegas hotel in June and approached her, calling her by name. The woman looked at him and wordlessly walked away. But investigators called it their best lead to date and held a news conference in Las Vegas pleading with Richardson to come forward and let them know if she was alright.

The bones that were found in the ravine on Monday were about a mile out of the range of the county's last big search for her.

-- Andrew Blankstein and Carla Hall

Photo: Michael Richardson flanked by family friend Jasmine Cannick arrive for a press conference with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca where Baca declared that the remains found in Malibu Canyon belong to Mitrice Richardson. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (142)

RIP Mitrice...the LASD really played their selves with this one...

"Richardson — a black woman who was a strikingly attractive former beauty pageant contestant"

Got lasik? Let's not get carried away...

How can the Sherriff shamelessly hide behind the grieving parents? With this kind of callousness, maybe he can become the spokesman for the Catholic Church and answer the molestation charges. He could say something like, “We can’t release information on when we knew they were pedophiles because it would interfere in the grieving/healing process of the abused children.”
You Deputies completely screwed up; you left a sick woman to die alone in a ravine. Now because you are afraid of the lawsuit that will surely come, your Boss and you deputies refused to sack up and admit you failed.
Great job, makes me feel real safe.

RIP

It's tragic. It takes your breath away. A black woman dying because of a dinner tab. A young black woman released in the dead of night, in the woods, without a purse or phone, by sheriiffs, who ARRESTED her, for an unpaid dinner tab.

The most extensive search ever? I don't think so. Look at the Kyron Horman case, searches have been ongoing for months. They didnt give up looking and still haven't.

Think of all the trouble and heartache they would have saved this family and all the MONEY they would have saved this community if they had just bothered to first make sure this woman reached home safely.

All it would have taken is a single phone call to her family, and they chose to ignore her safety for their convenience.

Mysterious death follows incarceration.
Go figure.
We need to really revamp the entire system we allow to operate in our name from outrageous pay scandals to this.
Wake up people!

LASD when it comes to Minorities they are Champs in Ignoring.

For me to asked to believe this 58 page document that has been produce by the sheriff is an insult to my intelligence. The really sad part is they don't care if you believe it or not they are going to force it down your throat as truth. I don't feel powerless however we do little in a society where there is no accountability of Law Enforcement unless they step on the toes of the rich and famous. THERE MUST BE CHANGE IN THIS SOCIETY

Our cops are now corrupt.

The report says that the station personnel "were not negligent in determining that Ms. Richardson did not demonstrate any symptoms of an existing mental health illness."

Really? What were they if not negligent, since she obviously DID demonstrate obvious signs of mental ilness? What kind of whitewash nonsense is this?

within 2 miles of the station, but a mile out range of the search....

HOW CAN THE SHERIFF SAY THERE ARE NO SIGNS OF FOUL PLAY....when all which was found were her bones???????????? Foul play is the sheriff's office; not releasing the tapes, hiding the tapes etc.

"And at a time when law enforcement agencies and the media have been accused of devoting less attention to minorities who go missing than to pretty white women who disappear, Richardson — a black woman who was a strikingly attractive former beauty pageant contestant — got extraordinary attention, becoming a high-profile enough case to make the cover of People magazine last fall along with several other missing people."

Are you serious? Is it really your place as a journalist to make such remarks as judging whether racial bias is at play. Blankstein and Hall - You should reexamine your objectivity and your own racial bias. Or maybe you just should work for FOX news.

Truly tragic. Incompetence on the part of the Sherriff's department.

"a black woman who was a strikingly attractive former beauty pageant contestant — got extraordinary attention..."

This is so disingenuous and mendacious, whoever wrote that line owes it to the journalism profession to resign their LAT post and join Andrew Breitbart and his scarlet letter gang.

The missing woman got the attention because her parents were tireless in their pursuit of getting media attention. They were always at the forefront of publicizing this missing woman, whether it was personally handing out leaflets at Western/Florence, or holding impromptu news conference outside of the Lost Hills Sheriff's station. Baca didn't even think there was anything wrong with impounding a vehicle, along with her other personal belongings, for an $89 dinner bill, because that's just how things are done in Malibu. The subsequent lawsuits and the hilarious "Office of Independent Review" report only further the mistrust in government people seem to be acquiring in larger doses. So much for a free press to inform of us.

I watched this painful press conference this morning and there are a lot of unanswered questions. The young lady was wrong by not paying for her meal but wasn't her life worth a bit more than $86? Come on LA Times. Put all of the facts out there. Do some real investigative reporting like you used to. Tell us why they let her go in the wee hours of the morning. Tell us why they would not let other people pay the bill and why the video from THAT day is missing. Tell us why they claimed the reason they let her go was because of overcrowding when in fact there was hardly anyone there. Answer this while we watch the way you handle the arrests of Lyndsey Lohan and Paris Hilton and Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.

The police did nothing wrong.

This case has received marginal coverage. The sheriff's department are clearly negligent in this case and owe not only the family but the citizens of California much better service.

This is a sad case.

***

Holy cow. Huge lawsuit in 3...2...1

When Sheriffs are lookling for marijuana, they diligently hunt high and low; but, when they're looking for a missing woman, they're not diligent??

so they did the biggest search ever in the county covering 40 miles...and the article says she was one mile outside the last search range...yet only 2 miles from the police station....those numbers make no sense...something is fishy about this situation...i hope they investigate the officers that were there the night she disappeared!!!

"jailers had offered to let Richardson stay in a cell or the station lobby until she could arrange transportation" - if she was mentally ill and/or incompetent how could she possibly make a rationale decision? That is what a mental health hold is for to let others determine what is best for the affected individual.

"No signs of foul play".......... the "foul play" was how this entire situation was handled from beginning to end.

To all who were involved you will get what you gave...someday.... Karma...aint it grand.....:)

The foul play is the cops steal her car and lock it up in an impound lot with her purse and cellphone inside...the cops and their tow truck buddies are always quick to steal and impound cars of people who have been convicted of no crime....for the $300-400 in fees

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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