Woman Found Dead After Being Released From Jail

Mitrice Richardson was suffering from a severe manic episode on the night of her arrest.

Mitrice Lavon Richardson was born on April 30, 1985, to Latice and Michael Richardson. She was mostly raised by her mother and step-father Larry Sutton in Covina, California. In 2008, she graduated from California State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology.

An open lesbian, Mitrice had been in a two-year-long relationship with Tessa Moon. She worked at a gay and lesbian nightclub in Long Beach, was a regular guest model at the Playboy Mansion’s Hot Summer Nights Party, and competed in beauty pageants.

Mitrice was planning to attend graduate school and eventually work with kids. At the time, she lived in Watts, California, with her great grandmother.

Mitrice Richardson / Los Angeles Daily News

On September 16, 2009, 24-year-old Mitrice drove 40 miles from her home to Malibu. It is unknown why exactly she drove there, but it is possible she wanted to visit Pepperdine — a private Christian university she was considering attending.

Nevertheless, Mitrice went to Geoffrey’s restaurant and parked in their parking lot. Inexplicably, she was found in one of the staff’s cars searching through his CDs. When asked what she was doing, she spoke gibberish.

Even though patrons and staff noticed her weird behavior, she ordered a cocktail and a steak. Reportedly, Mitrice also told people she was from Mars and was going to avenge Michael Jackson’s death.

When the check came, she was unable to pay the $89 bill. This lead to staff calling the authorities and saying that there was an African American woman who seemed to be on drugs refusing to pay for her meal.

Upon arrival, they performed a field sobriety test. Mitrice was deemed sober and not under any substance despite having a bottle of vodka, tequila, and a half case of beer in her car and less than an ounce of weed on her person.
Police had enough reason to involuntarily submit Mitrice to a psychiatric hold, though they simply arrested her for not paying.

Mitrice was detained and booked at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 9 PM, while her car — containing her purse, money, and phone — was towed to a tow yard along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Latice Sutton spoke on the phone to authorities while Mitrice was being driven to the station. She was not only concerned about her daughter’s unusual behavior, but that something would happen to her if she were to be released.

The mother told them that her daughter had severe bipolar disorder and they guaranteed her that the earliest she’d be released was in the morning. Moreover, when she arrived at the station they would have Mitrice call her mother. The call never came and Mitrice was released soon after at 12:38 AM.

Everything was closed, she was not familiar with the area, and there was no transportation. Most importantly, Mitrice had nothing on her since all of her belongings were in her car —in a tow yard 11 miles from the station.

According to Steve Whitmore, the Sheriff’s spokesperson, “she exhibited no signs of mental illness or intoxication. She was fine. She’s an adult.”

On January 9, 2010, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department conducted a large hunt consisting of over 300 volunteers trained in search and rescue. The team combed through 18 square miles of Malibu Canyon but found nothing.

Another search took place on June 5 and 6 in the Monte Nido area. Maurice Dubois, the father of an Escondido girl whose body was found months after she disappeared, helped in the search and supported Mitrice’s parents.

Furthermore, 100 volunteers also searched for her body. Nothing was found besides racially and sexually offensive graffiti that had been recently painted on a wall of a culvert.

On August 9, 2010, Dark Canyon park rangers, in the Santa Monica Mountains, set out to investigate a possible marijuana farm. Instead, they found a naked mummified body in a creek bed. Mitrice’s clothes were scattered nearby and the location was adjacent to a 21-acre ranch known to produce adult movies.

Despite the coroner’s explicit and routine orders to not touch the body, authorities immediately bagged Mitrice’s corpse. As a result, neither the crime scene or the victim were photographed or examined properly. The coroner was baffled by the police’s actions.

Mitrice’s body was found in an advanced state of decomposition making it impossible to identify a cause of death. Nevertheless, authorities claimed there had been no foul play.

Memorial where Mitrice’s body was found / Wikipedia

Authorities’ theory is that Mitrice, who was suffering from a manic episode, walked into the canyon, took off her clothes, and died from anaphylactic shock after being exposed to poison oak. Meanwhile, Mitrice’s father believes cops took advantage of his daughter while she was in a fragile state and detained.

His distrust of the authorities is corroborated by the fact that Captain Thomas Martin claimed there was no surveillance footage of Mitrice leaving the station after being released. Five months later, he inexplicably found the tape — it had been in his desk’s top drawer.

According to Latice, the tapes show Mitrice, clearly psychologically unstable, in an intake cell rocking herself side to side like a child. After she is released from the station, a deputy is seen exiting right after.

At first, the deputy believed to be from the video denied having been at the station at the same time as Mitrice. However, when it was confirmed he was, in fact, the deputy in the footage, he acknowledged he had been there but claimed to not know what happened to her.

Mitrice’s parents filed separate lawsuits against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. They are adamant about the fact that their daughter should not have been released given her mental state and her not having anything or anywhere to go. In 2011, each parent received $450.000. Meanwhile, Mitrice’s girlfriend denied she had any mental illness.

The family also asked the California Attorney General’s Office to review the Sheriff’s office’s handling of the case in 2015. Then-Attorney General Kamala Harris reviewed the case but found no ground for criminal charges. However, in 2016 they reversed their original judgment and began a criminal investigation.

In the end, there was insufficient evidence to pursue charges.