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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mother Urges Additional Scrutiny of Locations Where Mitrice Richardson’s Remains Were Collected

• She Lambastes Internet Bone Mailing Campaign Aimed at Sheriff Baca and Other Officials


Wanting to keep the focus of the county Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Department of Coroner on what happened to Mitrice Richardson, instead of the jurisdictional dispute between the two agencies concerning the improper handling of her remains, the dead woman’s mother is urging that the investigation get back on track.
Richardson is the 24-year-old African-American honors college graduate and beauty pageant competitor who went missing after being booked at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station in September 2009 for nonpayment of a Malibu restaurant bill. Eleven months later, according to the county coroner’s report, she was found dead due to an undeterminable cause.
Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, and a circle of family and friends, have kept the Los Angeles woman’s name in the public eye and closely monitored the efforts to investigate her disappearance and her subsequent death.
Sutton says it is imperative the coroner’s office dispatch its investigative teams to the Malibu Canyon areas where Richardson’s remains were found to determine whether there are additional remains and address whether all of the recovered bones belong to her daughter, or may be commingled with the remains of other individuals.
After that is done, psychologist Ronda Hampton, the young woman’s college mentor and close friend speaking for the mother, in an email to county officials, said it is time to “get on with the business of finding Mitrice’s killer.”
Sutton and others are convinced that Richardson was murdered, but she cautions against rushing to judgment about whether Lost Hills personnel were involved in her daughter’s death until there is proof of that.
Sutton says she thinks it is possible that indifference and incompetence played a greater role than malevolence in the way Lost Hills personnel treated Richardson, who may have been experiencing the onset of a previously undiagnosed bipolar condition, when she was booked for field-citable violations.
Richardson was released after her booking at the LHSS alone, without her car, her purse, or her cell phone, shortly after midnight in the remote industrial area where the station is located.
Although the Office of Independent Review, the arm of the LASD that is supposed to provide oversight on department malfeasance, said there was no wrongdoing by Lost Hills personnel, the chief attorney of the OIR has publicly expressed some personal qualms since the formal report was distributed.
Speaking at a recent chapter meeting of the National Association for Equal Justice in America in Compton, Mike Gennaco said, “If things were done by the book [in the Richardson case], maybe it’s time to change the book.”
Gennaco said, “Deputies do violate the laws. There are good ones and ones that go astray.” He said that three years ago, the LASD hired 1000 deputies within a short time span, and “relaxed their standards. They hired people they never should have. They hired people who were fired by other agencies.”
Gennaco said he concurs with critical assessments that there was “no efficient handoff of information at the station” when Sutton called Lost Hills to check on her daughter’s status and tried to make arrangements to pick her up there.
The OIR top dog added, “This incident can be used as a textbook for things to be improved upon,” and he appeared to agree with critics that the Lost Hills Station may not be a good place to be released in the “middle of the night.”
Hampton’s email to all of the key county officials on the case asks whether the agency officials “might also discuss the confusion about Mitrice’s clothing” and indicate if collection of DNA from that clothing is being contemplated.
Hampton then made the first public reference to the mother having been informed that there were articles of clothing found near the remains said “to belong to an unidentified male.” She said LASD detectives appear to have arbitrarily decided not to collect or test these items, and Hampton asks why they did so.
The circle of women around the mother also say they want to see a speedy resolution of the differences that exist between the GPS coordinates used to designate the locations where the coroner’s office and the LASD each gathered remains in August.
Department of Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter, the agency’s spokesperson, has declined to comment on this issue, nor has he answered questions from the Malibu Surfside News about whether animals might have scattered the remains between the two relatively close sites.
Winter also has not responded to MSN inquiries about whether the small human bone, which was found two weeks ago by Sutton and the rest of her party on their hike out to the area where the first remains were discovered by rangers in an abandoned marijuana grove, is being sent out for DNA testing to determine if it is Richardson’s.
In addition, Sutton is still awaiting word from the coroner’s office on when the bones that are no longer needed for testing will be returned to her, so they can be buried with Richardson’s other remains.
Sutton has also requested an inventory of all of the bones that have been recovered so far, in order to know which bones are still missing, but she said the DOC has not provided one yet.
Not long after distancing herself from an Internet campaign proclaiming that someone, or some persons, in the sheriff’s department murdered Mitrice Richardson and the agency is covering it up, because there is no evidence to support this yet, the mother now has openly denounced a second campaign by the same group.
Sutton stresses that she has no part in and is deeply offended by Richardson’s biological father, Michael Richardson, kicking off what is called the “Bone to Pick” campaign against Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, LASD spokesperson Steve Whitmore, and OIR’s Gennaco.
Michael Richardson and his supporters gathered on Tuesday in Los Angeles to urge the public to package bones left over after meals and other bones of any kind and mail them to the three men’s offices.
He says the goal is to remind the trio about “mistakes they have made in handling [his daughter’s remains in the] unsolved murder case.”
In a formal statement, Sutton said, “I do not want the actions of these people to interfere with the working relationship that we have established in an effort to find out what happened to my daughter. Our focus is on my baby Mitrice, and how she died.”
Calling the “Bone to Pick” campaign “buffoonery,” Sutton said it is disrespectful of the important role that Mitrice Richardson’s bones might play in solving many of the mysteries connected with her case, and added, “My daughter Mitrice would never support this type of antic.”

RECAP—Mitrice Richardson, a 24-year-old beauty pageant finalist and Cal State Fullerton honors graduate with a 4.0 GPA, was preparing to begin substitute teaching, while working on a doctorate in psychology. In September 2009, bizarre circumstances led to her Malibu arrest. After Richardson’s release alone and on foot, without her purse or cell phone, from the isolated Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, she went missing for 11 months. On Aug. 9, her skeletal remains were discovered in a Malibu Canyon ravine. It appears that Richardson might have died not long after the Lost Hills experience occurred.