Young Woman Is Reported Missing after Unpaid Malibu Meal Leads to Her Being Booked at Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station
• Released at 1:25 a.m. Ostensibly Alone and on Foot in Desolate Area
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
Law enforcement agencies and family members seek information that could lead to the location of a 24-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate who was last seen leaving the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lost Hills Station early last Thursday morning.
Mitrice Richardson of Los Angeles was released from the Lost Hills facility on Agoura Road at about 1:25 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, about five hours after she was arrested in Malibu on suspicion of defrauding an innkeeper (failing to pay for dinner) and possessing less than one ounce of marijuana in her vehicle, said Lost Hills Captain Thomas Martin.
According to Martin, Richardson was alone at Geoffrey’s restaurant on Wednesday, ordered dinner and a beverage, then indicated that she was not able to pay the $89 bill.
Martin said the restaurant manager called sheriff’s deputies to the location and made a citizen’s arrest at 8:30 p.m., after which the woman was taken into custody.
Richardson’s vehicle, a 1990 Honda Civic, which deputies searched in the restaurant parking lot, remained there until Geoffrey’s had it removed from the premises by Malibu Towing, according to Martin.
The Lost Hills captain said the woman was transported to the station and booked. He said the jailer (an unidentified female officer) gave her a telephone that she reportedly could use to call whomever she wanted.
Martin said the jailer heard Richardson speaking on the phone, but didn’t know whom she had called.
“Because the jailer was concerned”—the woman was clad in a knit shirt and jeans and nighttime temperatures can drop—Martin said Richardson was informed that she had the option “of remaining at the station and spending the night in a locked cell.”
When asked why the cell would be locked since the woman was being released on her own recognizance, Martin said. “This is a sheriff’s station…a jail…it’s not a hotel. We have prisoners here.”
Martin challenges assertions being made by family members that Richardson was in no condition to be sent out on foot into an industrial park area with open fields, minimal lighting and no public transportation. He said the jailer who processed the missing woman indicated that “she was not intoxicated...she was lucid.”
The captain also noted that Richardson could have remained in the “well lit and safe lobby” until daybreak, or she could have contacted someone to provide transportation. Family members dispute the nature of communication exchanges with station personnel regarding this.
Martin emphasized, “We are dealing with an adult here...24 years old. We can only do so much.” He reiterated, “We’re not a hotel, we don’t have [public] accommodations.”
When it was noted that there are precedents for deputies driving persons back to their vehicles or homes—the Mel Gibson incident among them—Martin said, “If she’d asked [us], we probably would have done it.”
However, Jeff Peterson, the owner of Geoffrey’s, while being careful not to directly challenge the jailer’s assessment that Richardson was “lucid” when she was released, emphasized that the reason the sheriff’s deputies were called “was less about the $89 unpaid dinner tab than it was due to concern about the woman’s mental state and public safety.”
Peterson, who was not at the restaurant when the incident occurred and did not want to name the manager who made the citizen’s arrest, said, “This was an issue of safety first. Our biggest concern was her getting into her car and driving away and...endangering others. We felt she needed professional help.”
The restaurant owner said that everyone who encountered Richardson described her as “a sweet person.” He said she was in the restaurant alone and spent time chatting with people at other tables. He noted that she ordered a steak and had one alcoholic beverage, then told the waiter that people at another table were covering her check.
There is some dispute over whether the restaurant was willing to accept a telephone payment from a relative for the tab, about which Peterson again stated that “this was not about the money.”
When the missing person’s report was filed, Martin said sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement personnel conducted a major search of the area around the station and adjacent communities on Saturday but came up empty. Martin said, “This is really unfortunate…the whole thing is puzzling to me.”
Martin also said he is “disappointed that [family members] are making statements that are not fair [and] are misinformation.” He bristles at the notion that anyone might think that Richardson would have been treated differently if she were white, dressed differently, a local resident or someone who was well known.
The City of Los Angeles Police Department is now the lead agency on the missing person’s report because Richardson’s address is in the city.
Richardson is described on the LAPD blog as “African-American with brown hair and hazel eyes. The 24-year-old is five-feet-five to five-feet-six inches tall and weighs about 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a dark shirt and blue jeans.”
Richardson graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2008 with a degree in psychology. She was a resident assistant at that campus until 2007 and then moved to South Central Los Angeles to live with her great-grandmother, with whom she may have spoken by telephone during the incident.
LAPD announcements ask anyone with information about Richardson’s whereabouts, or anyone who was at Geoffrey’s during the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 16, to call the LAPD Missing Persons Unit, Detective Kristin Merrill, at 213-485-5381. After-hours or on weekends, calls can be directed to a 24-hour, toll-free number at 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247).
Merrill and other members of the Missing Persons Unit were at Lost Hills and in the surrounding area most of Tuesday looking for anything that might provide a clue to Richardson’s whereabouts.
Merrill told the Malibu Surfside News late Tuesday, “We are working hard on this. We received the information from the sheriff’s department Friday night and ran with it. We are following up on every lead.”
“Anyone who might have been in the area could have seen something important.” she said.
In addition to using the above telephone numbers, persons with information can text “crimes” with a cell phone, or log on to www.lapdonline.org and click on web tips. When using a cell phone, all messages should begin with “LAPD.” Tipsters may remain anonymous.
MUG SHOT—Questions are being raised about the condition Mitrice Richardson was in when she was released without transportation in the relatively isolated area around the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station last week. This is the LASD photo from her booking on Sept. 16.
FLYER PHOTO—This more composed and adult looking photo of Richardson is the one used on an LAPD missing person’s flyer. She is described as being very close to her extended family and not the type of person to not make contact for as long a period of time as a week.