Moving Mitrice Richardson's remains was a mistake, coroner's office says
A Los Angeles County coroner's official criticized sheriff's deputies for removing the remains of Mitrice Richardson from a rugged ravine without permission, saying the deputies' actions may have violated the law and 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 acknowledged that deputies removed Richardson's body from the scene without the coroner's permission, but said they did so because detectives were concerned that it was getting dark and that animals might destroy the remains.
The 24-year-old Richardson drew national media attention in September 2009 when she disappeared after being released from the sheriff's Lost Hills/Malibu station about midnight, without her car, purse or cellphone. Nearly 11 months after her disappearance, her remains were spotted in a remote Malibu Canyon ravine.
Initially, sheriff's officials believed that only a skull and possibly a couple of other bones were there. Winter said that at that point, sheriff's officials were told they could move the bones only after coroner's officials reviewed photos of the scene and gave clearance.
After some leaves were brushed aside, Richardson's entire skeleton was discovered, "at which time I told detectives not to touch it," Winter said. "We've never given authorization to pick up entire skeletal remains."
Winter said that sheriff's officials consented and that he was shocked to hear just minutes later that the bones had been lifted into a helicopter and were headed back to the station.
-- Robert Faturechi