The 11-month search for 24-year-old pageant winner, and Cal State Fullerton graduate Mitrice Richardson came to a tragic end recently, when her remains were found by park rangers who were looking for illegal marijuana plants in a Malibu ravine. She was found no more than two miles out of the range of the last major search for her.
The main question that the family and supporters have posed is whether or not the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff Station handled Richardson’s arrest and release appropriately. Much controversy arose, when it was reported that the young college grad was released in the middle of the night with no transportation, no money, and some rumors even said no shoes, although that turned out to be only rumor. Additionally, the family said that Richardson suffered from bipolar disorder, and they argued that she shouldn’t have been released in that state.
According to the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review (OIR), under the circumstances as the Malibu/Lost Hills Station personnel knew them, they acted in accordance with the state law and department policies and orders in the booking and release of Richardson.
According to an OIR report on the incident, “it is common for department members to book arrestees who are bought into a station and to release misdemeanor arrestees after booking, and in this case, the booking and release of Ms. Richardson comported with the legal and policy requirements. Moreover, the booking process afforded Malibu/Lost Hills Station personnel with additional time to observe Ms. Richardson, and determine whether it was appropriate or not to release her. Station personnel’s interactions with Ms. Richardson during these processes confirmed their initial conclusion that Ms. Richardson was not intoxicated; nor did she meet the statutory requirements for a 5150 hold.”
Richardson’s family and many community activists are now calling for Los Angeles County Sherriff Leroy Baca and his department to take lie detector tests to verify the information that they have provided regarding the events surrounding her arrest, booking, and release.
“Life is fragile, and the circumstances of this case are tragic,” said Baca. “The deputies acted properly but that doesn’t mean that we did not do something or could have done something more. The deputies involved feel as terrible as I do.”
“The reason that community activists are calling for a polygraph test is that there is question about what really happened. And it’s clear that something isn’t right. At the press conference (when the announcement was made), Baca was essentially saying ‘we found the body, you should be happy, it’s all over now’, when that isn’t the case. In this day and age, when we have the technology to do DNA testing, it’s crazy to say we can’t know more. They have solved cases by just a fingerprint, and we have a body. They are saying that her body was so badly decomposed that we will never know what really happened, and we are not accepting that,” said community advocate Jasymyne Cannick. “They are trying to rule out homicide, but where she was found they said that she couldn’t have walked down there. So how did she get there? And really, there is no proof that she ever left the station other than hearsay. What I mean is the neighbors said that they saw her, but still that isn’t enough proof. Baca and the OIR are saying they all acted in accordance with policy.
Well, if that is the case then Baca should have no problem having the officers who came into contact with her take a polygraph,” said Cannick who has been helping Richarson’s father Michael.
“My attorney believes that the OIR (report) is garbage, and now they are just grasping for straws. Nothing makes sense, and they just keep trying to prove themselves in the media light,” said Michael Richardson, Mitrice’s father. “The public thinks independent is independent, as in separated and not working closely together, but that isn’t the case. The OIR works for the county and is one of their biggest clients. If you’re my client, and you pay me, I don’t want to take food off my table. You are paying me so I make you look good. One red flag was when they searched in the backyards where she was supposedly sighted, and all they said in the OIR was ‘we searched the grounds.’ Every other search site had this long, drawn-out explanation saying we did this and that, but at a site that was about two miles away from where she was found, it was just ‘we searched the grounds and didn’t find anything,” said Michael, who said the various inconsistencies have disturbed him including the captain who said there was no surveillance. He said the tapes were not working the night that she was released, but then later down the line a tape surfaced.
“My advice to the public is to stop inviting Baca over for breakfast like he has a relationship with the community, because he doesn’t. My theory is that they released Mitrice in the middle of the night without her car, her purse, or any money and having a mental breakdown, and they knew the possibilities of what could happen. They knew that she could run into sexual predators. They were aware of what she was up against.”
A vigil for Mitrice Richardson was held Monday in Leimert Park and members of the community were encouraged to come together, without tears, to remember Mitrice, and to continue to push for the Sherriff’s Department to take the lie detector tests.