Still No Action on Possible Role of FBI in Mitrice Richardson Case
• Some Family Members Question Whether Sheriff Baca Overstated Potential Involvement
BY ANNE SOBLE
It has been three weeks since family members of Mitrice Richardson were told that Sheriff Lee Baca has requested that the Federal Bureau of Investigation become involved in the investigation of her death, the saga of which first unfolded in Malibu.
Family members said they were assured at a personal meeting and in emails, and Baca responded to media inquiries, that FBI involvement was imminent but the specifics still had to be worked out.
Now some of them are beginning to quietly question whether the FBI is going to get involved at all.
On Tuesday, the spokesperson for the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, Laura Eimiller, told the Malibu Surfside News that Baca's "request for assistance is still under review."
Eimiller indicated, "Because there is no basis for federal jurisdiction in this case, the issue is what could FBI experts provide that the sheriff's department experts could not."
When asked this week whether the sheriff might have overstated the extent of FBI commitment to the dead woman's family, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department spokesperson Steve Whitmore said, "The sheriff is trying to do what the family wants. He can just ask the FBI, and he was given the indication that it would do what it can."
Richardson went missing after being booked at the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station on Sept. 16, 2009, for alleged nonpayment of a Malibu restaurant tab, at which time the 24-year-old reportedly was acting bizarrely, and for possession of a minimal amount of marijuana. Both are field-citable offenses.
Richardson was released the next morning shortly after midnight, alone, without her car, which had been taken to the Malibu impound lot, her purse, or her cell phone, in the remote industrial area where the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station is located.
Eleven months later, park rangers stumbled upon the honors college graduate's partially skeletonized and mummified remains on a routine patrol of a former marijuana grove less than eight miles from Lost Hills in the Malibu Canyon backcountry.
The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, which officially ruled that a cause of death could not be determined and criticized the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for impeding its investigation, has been waiting for the rugged terrain in the steep ravine where the remains were found to become accessible for another field search.
A coroner's department Special Operations Response Team, or SORT, was scheduled to go to the site last month to search for bones that are still missing and possible other clues, but that effort was cancelled due to the series of storms that deluged the local mountains.
Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told The News that he hopes that another SORT attempt can be undertaken within a week or two, if not sooner.
He said that no date for the field search has been set, but his people are ready to go as soon as the LASD and the FBI, which he currently expects to take part in the effort, are able to coordinate with each other.
LASD's Whitmore said the sheriff's department "stands ready to assist the search effort with air support or whatever else is needed."