Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Mitrice Richardson sighting in Las Vegas 'best lead' so far in missing woman's case, police say

July 29, 2010 | 11:24 am

Mitrice Los Angeles police and L.A. County sheriff’s detectives said Thursday that a reported sighting of Mitrice Richardson in Las Vegas is the best lead in the missing woman's case so far and urged her to contact authorities if she is in Nevada.

“This is the first lead in the 10 months we’ve been doing this,” said LAPD Robbery-Homicide Capt. Kevin McClure at a news conference in Las Vegas.

He said someone who knew Richardson reported seeing her at the Rio Hotel. McClure said they are not sure Richardson is in Las Vegas, but they consider the possible sighting important enough to investigate.

“If Mitrice is here in Las Vegas, we ask her to please call her family, please call the Los Angeles Police Department and please call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,” he said.

Los Angeles law enforcement authorities believe that Richardson, who vanished after being released from a sheriff's station in the early morning last September, may be alive and living in Las Vegas.

Richardson's father, Michael Richardson, said Wednesday that a Sheriff's Department official told him the department had gathered information on 80 possible sightings of his daughter in Las Vegas.

One of those sightings involved a friend from Richardson's teenage years who said he saw her in a bar at the Rio on Father's Day weekend in June, prompting a search by L.A. County sheriff's investigators.

Richardson, a Cal State Fullerton graduate whose 25th birthday was three months ago, was arrested the evening of last Sept. 16 at Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu after she couldn't pay her $89 dinner bill.

Patrons and restaurant staff said she had been behaving bizarrely, but Sheriff's Department staffers said she acted normally while in custody at the Lost Hills/Malibu station.

She was released shortly after midnight but without her car — which had been impounded — or her purse and cellphone, which were in the car. There were three credible sightings of her later that morning in Malibu Canyon. But she never made contact with friends or family and no further trace of her was found.

Los Angeles Police Department homicide investigators assigned to the case discovered a few months later that she was probably suffering from a severe bipolar mental disorder at the time of her arrest and disappearance.

Since then, Sheriff's Department officials have been criticized for not holding her for further medical evaluation and instead releasing her without a car or phone in the early morning darkness near the rugged terrain of Malibu Canyon. The department has steadfastly maintained that Richardson acted rationally in their custody.

But its handling of the case has been investigated at the request of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Richardson's parents have filed lawsuits claiming negligence.

Authorities conducted four searches across miles of Malibu Canyon — the last one in January was the largest ever conducted in the county for a missing person — without turning up a single clue.

According to Michael Richardson, a Sheriff's Department official discussed with him the possibility that his daughter was working as a prostitute in Las Vegas. Richardson said it was possible she was under the influence of someone keeping her from contacting family and friends.

Or she may have simply shrugged off old connections on her own. It's also possible that the multiple sightings are not of Richardson but of a woman who resembles her.

"Absolutely possible," Whitmore said. "They want to make it definitive."

-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas and Carla Hall in Los Angeles

Photo: Mitrice Richardson. Credit: Family photo