FBI lab will examine remains of Mitrice Richardson, sheriff says
The remains of Mitrice Richardson, the woman who disappeared after being released from the Lost Hills/Malibu sheriff’s station and was found dead nearly a year later, will be exhumed and sent to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., for further examination, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
Clothing that was found near her remains — and assumed to be hers — as well as a hank of hair discovered near her will also be sent for investigation.
“I am responding to the family’s wishes,” Baca said in a phone interview.
He said he called the FBI’s assistant director here in L.A. in late December to request the agency’s involvement.
“But I also think it doesn’t hurt having the FBI say, ‘We’ve examined this and find the following,’" Baca said. "I think the needs of the family should be my first priority.”
The Sheriff’s Department has been dogged by criticism ever since Richardson disappeared after walking out of the Lost Hills sheriff’s station in Calabasas shortly after midnight on Sept. 17, 2009. She had been arrested for not paying a dinner bill at Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu. Her car had been impounded that night and in it were her cellphone and purse.
Her skeletal remains were found last August in a remote area of the rugged Malibu Canyon area just south of the station.
The department, which faces two negligence lawsuits in this matter, was found to have correctly followed its policy that early morning.
“Certainly you have to think twice about everything you do in this business we’re in,” said Baca, who has met several times with Richardson’s family members since she went missing. “The most important thing is that Mitrice was offered the opportunity to stay [at the station] until it was a safer period of time for her to leave. I don’t know if there’s a policy that can stop a free person from leaving a jail facility which she had a right to do as an adult.”
But Baca said he would like to add a sheriff’s station to serve that area that would be less remote than the Lost Hills/Malibu station.
“I have for years wanted to reopen the old Malibu station where people could come to the city of Malibu, get booked and not have that distance to go from Lost Hills,” Baca said. It would help people, he said, “if we don’t just put cars in an impound area ridiculously far from where the individual is jailed.”
Baca said that he and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky were working on a plan to open a substation in the Malibu Civic Center. “I think it’s going to happen,” he said.
The L.A. County coroner has agreed to the exhumation, Baca said. Its own report on Richardson’s skeletal remains listed the cause of death as undetermined.
Richardson’s mother and an anthropologist who works with families of missing persons had publicly said that body should be examined further and they wanted the FBI involved.
“I feel very elated that Sheriff Baca and the head medical examiner have heard my pleas,” said Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton. “There is more on Mitrice’s body to explain what happened to her.”
-- Carla Hall
Photo: Forensic anthropologist Clea Koff (left), Latice Sutton (center) and her sister Lauren Sutton at a press conference inside the New Testament Church on Florence Avenue in Los Angeles on Dec. 20, 2010, where Koff presented new evidence in the death of Latice's daughter Mitrice Richardson, 24, shown in photo at left, making a case for exhuming her body. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times