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More remains believed to be those of Mitrice Richardson are found in Malibu search


Coroner’s investigators are combing the rugged Los Angeles-area ravine where Mitrice Richardson’s remains were found, searching for body parts that they may have missed in the initial search.

Three bone fragments, believed to be from two fingers and a wrist, have been found so far, according to Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“The coroner wants to go back there and make sure we’ve found everything,” he said.

The disappearance of the 24-year-old sparked national headlines. She was arrested in September 2009 at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu after being unable to pay an $89 dinner tab and acting bizarrely. She was released from the sheriff’s Lost Hills/Malibu station after midnight -- without her car, purse or cellphone -- and vanished. Her remains were found in a remote Malibu Canyon ravine nearly 11 months later.

The family, which has filed suit against the county and the Sheriff’s Department, alleging negligence and wrongful death, has been urging investigators to revisit the site after Mitrice’s mother, Latice Sutton, in November visited the area where her daughter was found and found a finger bone.

“If I can go up there and find a finger bone while I’m up there memorializing her, then a thorough job was not done,” she said, adding that she couldn't "describe how angry it makes me" to have to push for a more thorough investigation.

Sutton, who believes her daughter was sexually assaulted and murdered before being dumped in the ravine, said a “very vital bone” remained missing -- the hyoid. The bone, which is found in the neck, could determine whether Richardson was strangled.

Sheriff Lee Baca had requested that the FBI assist in the investigation, but on Friday the federal agency declined to do so, saying that its work would be duplicative and that there were chain-of-custody issues because of the handling of Richardson’s clothing after her remains were found. Her family plans to appeal the decision.

Richardson’s disappearance spurred a nationwide search, and controversy resulted over the handling of the case, from its very inception.

The Sheriff’s Department came under fire for releasing a young woman into a remote area after midnight, without her car, purse or cellphone, and without any apparent way of getting home.

Once her remains were  found, the coroner’s office blasted the Sheriff’s Department for moving the remains before coroner’s investigators could examine them.

In November, a coroner's official said actions by sheriff's deputies may have violated the law by removing the remains without permission from the coroner’s office and may have undermined the thoroughness of the coroner's investigation.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said he was "very clear" with sheriff's officials and could not think of another case in which a police agency had moved entire skeletal remains without the coroner's approval.

A sheriff's spokesman said at the time that deputies removed Richardson's body from the scene without the coroner's permission because they were concerned that it was getting dark and that animals might destroy the remains.

Whitmore said Sunday that 99% of Richardson’s remains had been found shortly after their discovery but that the coroner’s office had long wanted to send out its investigators to search the area again.

Rainy conditions have hampered previous efforts, but sunny, dry weather allowed investigators to visit the site by helicopter on Sunday.

Six coroner’s investigators, one sheriff’s homicide investigator and a search dog were lowered from the chopper by harness into the ravine at about 9:30 a.m. and had been expected to spend several hours searching the site.


Woman's body to be exhumed

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

Long search for Mitrice Richardson comes to tragic end

-- Seema Mehta in Lost Hills

Photo: Litrice Sutton, left, mother of Mitrice Richardson, with friend Ronda Hampton, works on an e-mail to federal officials while keeping a vigil at Lost Hills Sheriff's station in Agoura on Sunday afternoon. ( Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Comments () | Archives (23)

i smell foul play! rest in eternal peace mitrice! justice will come soon!

the malibu sheriff station has always had a sordid reputation and past.

when a lying cop gets shot, they gets 300 cops looking for a ghost gunman. when its a ordinary citzen...especially african american. the case gets treated like a petty theft. the other day sheriff joe arpiao said ...los angles needs a sheriff.

This is just ridiculous. I mean call it what it is.

Sounds like a major cover up. What if the Sheriffs themselves perpetrated this heinous crime? Is it so out of the realm of probability? I mean, c'mon.

Latice Sutton is doing what any mother would do. She is trying to seek justice for her daughter and I respect her and her family so much. I have a daughter just a few years younger than Mitrice. I will continue to pray for this family.

Why Did a bill for $89.00 cost this young woman her life? If she was acting confused why didn't someone call here family and tell them of the serious situation and get her to a safe place? They could have called an ambulance or at least a taxi to take her home from the resturant! This bill should have been handled a different way. They had her address so why couldn't she pay the next day? They also had her GrandMother's credit card number so they could have billed it through. You would think such a high end resturant would have some compassion for a customer in trouble. Such a waste of life! My condolances to Matrice's family. God Bless you all and I'm sorry for your loss.

The fact that this site is so difficult to access is the primary reason I believe foul play was behind her disappearance. How did she end up there? It seems highly unlikely she'd stumble into so remote an area even if she was having some issues. I believe she was taken there, by someone who knows the area very well. She was not meant to be found. I'm glad she was.

I too think this is a major cover up. How are you released without being given your belongings (purse, cell phone and car)? As previously stated here, why wasn't someone in her family called if she was acting strange?

I hope that this isn't swept under the rug and that the FBI does get involved.

I think the police did their job. That missing bone could have easily been buried under feet of dirt, and only came to light because of the heavy rains they had earlier in the year. Her mom acts like the bone was sitting there all this time for anyone to find. This woman had issues. Her issues led her to a tragic end. The police have given more than 5 examples of similar cases where they treated a suspect in the exact same manner. The responsibility for this woman was first and foremost, hers. Secondly, it was that of her parents and loved ones. The police are not supposed to babysit non-criminals.

Paul Roberson

That's not foul play you smell...

Once a detainee is discharged from a jail or Sherff's facility, they are not insured a ride home or administered any medical attention for injuries which occured at the facility or elsewhere. It is likely that she was offered a lift in that remote area and was subsequently mortally victimized.

The fact that she did not have her purse and belongings indicates that there was a discrepency at the Sheriff's station. The law enforcement demanded that she show them her ID. She should have left the station with her ID.

They should have called her family. I believe the officers were wrong to release the women at night with nothing. Some areas of Malibu are very remote and can be dangerous at night. I the person responsible is one sick person, hopefully we see justice in this case. I'm very alarmed because I hike in Malibu twice a week.

I'm a conservative, this is not a political issue, it is about a wrongful death, something that, with any common sense or common decency, would never have happened!!!These cops are idiots and should all be fired, perhaps jailed...not only should they not have thrown the confused young lady out in the middle of the night, they were, in my opinion, obliged to make sure she got home safely!!...the least they should have done was to wait until her mom or dad or a relative picked her up!!..I'm also suspicious of the role Geoffrey's played in this drama.....something isn't right there either!!

The F.B.I. has declined Sheriff Baca's request for use of their forensic lab resources in the Mitrice Richardson case?


Are you telling us that the head of the largest sheriff department in the U.S.A - who is also the liason for all southern california region law enforcement with Homeland Security, - and who has no problem getting AG Holder to do a joint Anti Prop 19 P.R. stunt only a few months ago - has made a personal and direct request to the F.B.I. for a little lab time and after six weeks finally gets a reply "sorry, no can do and if anyone cares here are some of the most pitiful sounding reasons why we can't play ball with you, but they are the best we could come up with short of admitting who really calls the shots here?

Lets get real about Mitrice Richardson, Sheriff Baca, the L.A. County Sheriff Department and the voters of L.A.County.

There is no mystery here. And we don't need to disturb this young woman's final resting place to close this case.

Since it involves sheriffs we have closed off every possible road to justice the parents can pursue save exhumation of their murdered daughter.

We? Yes.

We who vote to re-elect every officeholder whose complicity either by action or inaction has contributed to Sheriff Baca's efforts to ensure the real story never enters the official record. County Board of Supervisors, District Attorney, - now the F.B.I. which is part of the Federal Executive Branch under President Barak Obama.

Sorry. But thats the truth. What should you care anyway?

You don't care that $100,000 or $250,000 or maybe $1/2 million or even
$1 million of your tax money has now been spent towards fake investigations and moot search and rescues amounting to a 17 month long and counting "obstruction of justice operation"?

Because every dime of salary for LAPD Robbery/Homicide missing person investigators and LASD Homicide investigators and all related expenses and support and incidentals that have been paid on the Mitrice Richardson case have been for not conducting a real investigation and /or obstructing a real investigation.

That is the truth. You must like it. You vote for it. You are paying for it.

Everything needed to close this case is right there.

The road that gets there is the same road taken every time we are serious about rolling up a criminal operation.

If you gave me power of warrant, power of subpeona, power of prosecution, authority to negotiate pleas and authority to grant immunity and provided me with the identity and location of each person whose name is on any of the reports or whose voice is heard on any of the recorded calls I will close out Mitrice Richardson in 72 hours.

No trial. You will have the true story of what happened and guilty pleas.
Or you will have one or more fugitives and/or suicides.

I didn't the write story. Its already long since done. I just call it like it is.

Through the perspective of a logical citizen, like many of us, certain details in this story seem inconsistent and vague which suggest something other than what we're being told.
1. Exactly how was Richardson acting "strangely"? What in her behavior warranted her arrest? And, if it were that serious, why wasn't she kept overnight out of safety concerns or her family called to pick her up? Did the Sheriff Dept. believe she was just fine enough to walk out on her own empty-handed hours later?
2. It is far too convenient to justify their actions with "We released her into the night and we don't know what happened after that, not our fault...." even if chivalry is dead, this excuse from law enforcement bothers my conscience.
3. Lastly, the handling of the remains-the glaring "foul play" red flag. A spokesman stated in the article that the Department moved Richardson's remains due to fear of predation as night set in. Really? Because her remains had been there for 11 months already, I don't believe that's justification enough to violate protocol! This weak assertation and the subsequent blasting response by the coroner leads any logical person to suspect that there is other reasoning behind that move.
It stands to mention that articles of her clothing were found scattered down the hillside near a residence as well.
4. FBI refusing to be involved? That worries me.
I'm not accusing (yet), I'm just saying...obviously there is foul play involved. This mafia-esque event and the sloppy attempt to cover it up may have gone unsolved 50, 60, or 70 years ago, but today is a new day. If we keep pushing, we will find justice for Mitrice Richardson. We just have to ask the right questions.

The responsibility for this woman was first and foremost, hers. Secondly, it was that of her parents and loved ones. The police are not supposed to babysit non-criminals. ---

If Ms. Richardson was not in her right mind, and it appears she wasn't, she was not capable of making responsible choices. Her parents were called and their wishes dismissed by LASD. If she was a non-criminal she should not have been arrested in the first place. AND, YES IT IS the LASD's responsibility to come to the aid of others when they pose a danger to themselves or others, whether or not they have committed a crime. I guarantee you those officers would not have released their own daughters, sisters or wives out into that terrain without a phone, ID or money at that time of night or any time.

Baca you go some “plaining to do!

The Sheriff's Department, their executives and the Homicide Bureau could not have done a worse job on this case. I'm ashamed. OIR will cover it up, again, and no one will be held responsible. The Coroner said NOT to move the remains, but typical mentality of "we don't answer to anyone" and the bones are scooped up and placed in a bag "because they didn't want the animals to destroy the remains."

Mrl Whitmore, just how much are you being paid to spew that spin? It must pain you each day to have to cover up the Sheriff's Department as you have, as part of your job. When will the Board of Supervisors step in and hold some public hearings as to what in the hell is going on at Sheriff's Headquarters? Or better yet, a Federal agency.

The Sheriffs should have put her on a 5150...3 day mental evaluation...that would have prevented this...she was an endangerment to herself being all alone in a psychotic state...doesn't take a brain surgeon to recognize this.


the family should not have let her out of their sight given Mitirices' psychotic state...doesn't take a brain surgeon to recognize this.

but why take responsibility for your own failures when you can just blame someone else?

@u know Once again you dont know as much as you claim....

This was the 1st real onset of this 'mental' issue Mitrice was facing, so what did u expect??? Her family to follow this woman around until she may have suffered a severe mental crisis one day? Ummmm

And if it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out she had issues then the deputies should have gotten her treatment like they are mandated to do! They were the ones called & told she was acting 'strange' & 'crazy' which was confirmed by the 9 witnesses at the scene. (They did a sobriety test which ruled out her being under the influence) Don't skip over the fact law enforcement has a duty to the public other than 'murder' & 'brutality' & 'misconduct!' You love taking up for cops obvious wrongdoings....

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