Family Members Ask Why There Still Are No DNA Test Results for Latest Bone Find in Mitrice Richardson Case
• Investigation and Exhumation Process Appear to Be Taking Back Seat during Legal Proceedings But LASD Claims It Knows Who Painted Obscene Misogynistic Mural Yet Have Not Filed Charges
BY ANNE SOBLE
Family members of Mitrice Richardson ask the Los Angeles County Coroner's office on a regular basis whether the DNA analysis has been completed for the bones found in February in a repeat search of the remote Malibu Canyon area site where most of the skeletal remains of the Los Angeles resident were found in August of 2010.
Richardson is the 24-year-old African-American honors college graduate and beauty pageant competitor who was taken into custody by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies at Geoffrey's restaurant on Sept. 16, 2009, for allegedly being unable to pay an $89 dinner check and possessing what has since become a legal amount of marijuana.
Patrons and restaurant staff described Richardson as speaking gibberish, being mesmerized by bright lights, and stating that she was from Mars. The restaurant manager performed a citizen's arrest and three deputies transported the handcuffed woman to the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station.
Richardson's automobile—with her purse, credit cards and cell phone locked inside—was towed to the Malibu impound lot in the Civic Center area, depriving her of the use of those items when she was released from Lost Hills alone just after midnight the next morning.
The first find of remains occurred 11 months after Richardson went missing on Sept. 17, 2009. Other than a possible sighting that morning, there was no trace of her until State Parks rangers checking on an abandoned marijuana grove in the area made the grisly find.
Richardson's mother, Latice Sutton, is expressing concern that the DNA analysis of the second bones find has taken over two months because that information is necessary before the coroner's office proceeds with the exhumation of her daughter's remains for additional examination and testing.
Even before the second field search, the county coroner's office had blasted LASD Homicide Bureau detectives for moving Richardson's remains before coroner's investigators could examine them in place, which is an apparent violation of state law, and thereby compromising the coroner's office investigation by their haste and carelessness.
Sutton has raised the issue of whether the ongoing proceedings related to family lawsuits for negligence and civil rights violations filed against Los Angeles County have brought what is supposed to be an ongoing investigation to a halt.
However, sheriff's department spokesperson Steve Whitmore recently told the Malibu Surfside News that the LASD "continues to investigate the cause of Richardson's death, even though it is now locked in litigation with the woman's family."
Whitmore said, "Unusual as it may seem, Sheriff [Lee] Baca remains committed to assisting the family in any way possible to provide answers to the mystery surrounding their daughter's death."
This ostensible assurance is among the reasons that family members hope the LASD Homicide Bureau, whose investigators are known in the department as "The Bulldogs," will ultimately help to bring the person or persons they think murdered Richardson to justice.
But public statements notwithstanding, the current emphasis is primarily on the deposition process of gathering testimony to be used either in settlement negotiations or if the matter goes to trial.
Richardson's arresting officers, the jailer who booked her at Lost Hills and is the last person believed to have had contact with Richardson at the Lost Hills Station, and other LASD personnel have been subpoenaed to give depositions.
Her great grandmother Mildred Hughes and other family members have also received writs to provide statements. This process is expected to continue for another month.
A pornographic mural depicting African-American women, some of whom appear to bear a resemblance to Richardson, was found on a culvert wall in June of 2010 not far from where the majority of her remains would be discovered two months later.
LASD Homicide Bureau detectives have repeatedly stated that they do not think the mural is related to the Richardson case, but her mother and others insist that individuals acquainted with specifics of the case, including aspects yet to be made public, painted it.
Sheriff's department spokesperson Whitmore confirmed reports that two individuals had come forward to accept responsibility for the mural. He did not dispute reports that the pair are white males who have not been charged for what, at a minimum, appears to be vandalism of public property.
Whitmore stated, without directly applying the comment to this specific instance, that charges might not have been filed because the pair provided information, then added that the matter is now under Homicide Bureau's jurisdiction.
However, when asked why, if there is no connection to any death, Homicide Bureau is continuing to handle the matter, he did not reply.
In a subsequent email to the Malibu Surfside News, Lt. Michael Rosson of the LASD Homicide Bureau discussed the mural.
"The Mitrice Richardson case remains an open case, so the information I can comment on is limited. There are two persons responsible for the mural in Malibu, both are male and were identified by investigators from the sheriff's department. The individuals agreed to speak to investigators, while represented by their respective attorneys. They were very forthcoming about the mural and at this time all investigations point to the mural not being related to Mitrice's disappearance or untimely death. All other information will remain confidential at this time."
An organization named after Mitrice Richardson that was recently founded by her mother, her aunt Lauren Sutton, and her college mentor and friend, Ronda Hampton, will hold its inaugural fundraising event on Saturday, April 30, in the Pasadena Playhouse library.
The organizers say the event from 7 to 10 p.m. is being held on what would have been Mitrice Richardson's 26th birthday.
Because Richardson is believed to have been in a mental health crisis when she went missing on Sept. 17, 2009, the organization's goal is to "increase awareness of mental illness and assist families in the search for their loved ones." The fundraising event is free of charge and will include food, entertainment and a silent auction.
MURAL—The culvert wall in this redacted photograph is covered with racist and sexually explicit graffiti of African-American women bearing a resemblance to Mitrice Richardson who went missing on Sept. 17, 2009. Paintbrushes found at the scene had not dried, a possible indication that the mural was painted immediately before a June 2010 field search for the missing woman. This was two months before her skeletal remains were found at a remote Malibu Canyon parkland site a few miles from the mural location. This resemblance and the subject matter greatly upset Richardson family members who remain concerned that the mural may be connected to her death. The graffiti was painted over the day after it was discovered.