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Searchers to comb Malibu Canyon area for Mitrice Richardson

January 9, 2010 |  6:30 am

Mitrice map Law enforcement authorities are undertaking their most ambitious search this morning for Mitrice Richardson, the young woman who disappeared in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 17 after being released from the Lost Hills sheriff's substation in Calabasas.  

Richardson, who LAPD detectives now think was suffering from a severe form of bipolar disease, was arrested at the Malibu restaurant Geoffrey's when she could not pay her dinner bill. 

An estimated 300 trained volunteers, aided by dogs, will fan out across the rugged terrain in the Malibu Canyon area where Richardson is believed to have been spotted on foot by a couple of area residents in the early morning of her release. An equine search unit as well as helicopters will join the search.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is coordinating the search at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department, which took the lead in the search for her months ago.  This is the third organized search the Sheriff's Department has undertaken.

"We're looking for additional clues," said Police Det. Chuck Knolls, one of two detectives who have been investigating Richardson's disappearance. "Clothing, anything that may indicate she was out there.  We can only hope for that. If she's out there, she probably has succumbed to the elements."

The search was scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. and may last until dusk, depending on the weather.  Unlike in the currently frigid parts of the country, the obstacle facing the searchers in Malibu Canyon is excessive heat.  "If it's overcast, they can keep the horses and dogs out longer," Knolls said.   

--Carla Hall