Coroner Confirms Additional Bones Discovered in February Belong to Mitrice Richardson
• Remains Found 11 Months Ago Are Slated for Exhumation as Early as Next Week •
BY ANNE SOBLE
Additional comprehensive analysis of the remains of Mitrice Richardson to try to determine the cause of her death has been on hold for three months, but the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office now indicates that its investigation is about to resume.
Coroner spokesperson Assistant Chief Ed Winter told the Malibu Surfside News on Tuesday that he is coordinating the schedules of all of the necessary parties in the agency and on the family's side to set a date to exhume Richardson's remains now that DNA test results have determined that additional bones found in February are Richardson's.
Mitrice Richardson is the 24-year-old African-American honors college graduate 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 disoriented, speaking gibberish, mesmerized by bright lights and stating 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 car—with her purse, credit cards and cell phone locked inside—was towed to the Malibu impound lot in the Civic Center area.
The Los Angeles resident was released from Lost Hills alone just after midnight the next morning, without a means of transportation, credit cards or cell phone in an unfamiliar area.
Richardson was never seen alive by her family again. Other than a possible sighting the morning of Sept. 17, there was no trace of her for 11 months until park rangers checking on an abandoned marijuana grove not far from the sighting location discovered what were determined to be her unclothed skeletal remains.
Last November, the coroner's office officially ruled that a cause of death could not be determined and publicly criticized the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for impeding its investigation by mishandling the remains.
Winter told The News that scheduling complications kept delaying the exhumation because the coroner's medical examiner, forensic anthropologist and other staff have to be coordinated with the family and their forensic anthropologist, as well as law enforcement representation.
If the scheduling works out, Winter said the exhumation could take place as early as next week.
Winter indicated that the additional bones will be put with the exhumed remains for additional analysis.
After the extensive testing has been completed, all of the remains will be returned together to Richardson's mother, Latice Sutton, for reburial.
On Monday, Sutton had emailed Winter stating, "Until the remainder of my daughter's remains are returned, I cannot in good conscious lay her headstone down, knowing that there's parts of her that's being held 'somewhere,' and further, there's material evidence contained within her remains that's buried."
In the email, Sutton said, "The reexamination of my daughter's remains is so vital to propelling the investigation forward, and the collection of material evidence left behind may lead the investigators to a potential suspect. None of this can happen until you carry out your commitment. I have never believed my daughter lay down and died. I've always contended that she died at the hands of another—murdered."
Richardson's mother added, "I do fully understand that your reexamination may not lead to my conclusion, but there's an equal possibility that your reexamination may substantiate my conclusion. Either way, nothing can be determined without the reexamination."
Sutton said she remains adamant, "There's a murderer that is getting away with killing my daughter, and you have the power and authority to uncover the pieces that may lead us to the subhuman that took my daughter's life."
Even before additional bones were discovered six months after the original skeletal find in August 2010, the county coroner's office had lambasted LASD homicide detectives for moving the remains before specially trained coroner's investigators could examine them.
This is a violation of state law, and the coroner's report stated that it compromised the coroner's office investigation.
The Office of Independent Review, ostensibly the county watchdog over allegations of law enforcement misconduct, is also monitoring the dispute between the two agencies and the case as a whole.
Settlement talks are reportedly now underway in the negligence and civil rights violations lawsuits filed separately by Richardson's parents that are now consolidated into a single action. If a settlement is not reached, the matter is expected to go to trial.