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Search for Mitrice Richardson draws 300 volunteers to Malibu Canyon

January 9, 2010 |  2:10 pm

Mitrice map More than 300 volunteers on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department today to scour the Malibu Canyon area for traces of Mitrice Richardson, who has been missing for nearly four months.

Sheriff's officials described the search as among the largest ever conducted by the department, taking in an 18-square-mile area of ridges, canyons and trails. A team of divers even searched a dam pool in the area. The volunteers are trained in search and rescue operations and were combing mountain areas east and west of Malibu Canyon and north to Mulholland Highway.

This is the fourth search for Richardson, who was arrested for not paying an $89 dinner bill at Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu. She was released from custody at 12:30 a.m. without her car at the sheriff's Malibu-Lost Hills Station.   After Los Angeles police detectives learned that Richardson was probably suffering from a severe mental disorder at the time of her Sept. 17 disappearance, they requested Saturday's renewed search effort.

"The assumption right now is that we are searching for evidence, clues, anything that can help solve this mystery," said Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore. "It's not a question of whether she's alive; it's about looking for clues."

Both of Richardson's parents publicly thanked searchers while they waited for news at the search command post in Malibu Creek State Park. In a clearing, a giant Sikorsky helicopter picked up searchers to ferry them to remote areas.

"My thoughts as to where Mitrice is right now? My thoughts are many," said her mother, Latice Sutton. "Pretty much anything you can think of, I've already thought of.... I'm going to always hope and believe Mitrice is out there."

--Carla Hall, reporting from Malibu Canyon

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