Group Commemorating Mitrice Richardson Hosts Public Safety Awareness Event on the Grounds of Lost Hills Sheriff's Station
• Spotlighted Ways to Deal with Missing Persons and Mentally Ill in the Legal System
BY ANNE SOBLE
It had been a year and a day since the skeletal remains discovered in a remote Malibu Canyon location were identified as those of Mitrice Richardson, and her family and friends marked the date with an event that honored her memory by reaching out to help others.
They gathered on the grounds of the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station last Saturday to present a public safety awareness program in the name of Mitrice.org, an organization formed in Richardson's memory.
Richardson was 24 when she went missing on Sept. 17, 2009, a half a day after being taken into custody at the Lost Hills Station for seemingly bizarre behavior at a Malibu restaurant and alleged inability to pay an $89 dinner check.
Richardson was booked and released shortly after midnight without transportation, cell phone, or wallet. She had been instructed to place personal items in her vehicle, which was impounded and taken to the Malibu tow yard.
Saturday's event focused on the kinds of information and documentation family members or other concerned parties would need if someone goes missing.
Richardson's mother, Latice Sutton, has said, when her daughter went missing, she had to learn quickly how little help there is for the family, especially when the missing person is an adult and law enforcement agencies often operate under the generic assumption that most adults disappear of their own accord.
Richardson's mother, her aunt Lauren Sutton, and Ronda Hampton, the Cal State Fullerton honors graduate's college mentor and family friend, founded Mitrice.org to try to spare other families the same ordeal they went through.
The group's goal is to provide information that takes families through what is required when someone goes missing, show them what is involved in the search process, and empower them to deal with public agencies, including law enforcement, that may be overworked or indifferent to their personal plight.
Because it was determined after the fact that Richardson may have been in the throes of a manic/ bipolar or related episode, Mitrice.org places heavy emphasis on how to deal with mental illness and the missing in the public context of law enforcement and other agencies.
Richardson's remains were exhumed last month for additional forensic analysis to try to determine a cause of death. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office asserts that improper handling of the remains by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department detectives compromised its initial efforts to determine the cause.
An independent pathologist, whose report is expected soon, provided forensic oversight of the exhumation procedure.
Richardson's parents have filed separate lawsuits against the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department that are now conjoined and were due for a summary judgment hearing and mandatory settlement conference last Friday that was cancelled. No reason for the cancellation has been made public.
The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of the LASD during Richardson's booking and release.