Before Black Lives Matter became a movement, before there was daily scrutiny of the police on the evening news and before videos showcasing police brutality on African-Americans came a dime a dozen – her life mattered.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson and five years since her decomposing naked corpse was found in a Malibu ravine.
24-year-old Mitrice Richardson found herself at the swanky Geoffrey’s restaurant in wealthy Malibu, California where they claim she was acting bizarre and unable to pay her $89.51 bill. Mitrice was allowed to phone her great-grandmother (using Geoffrey’s phone), who was willing to pay the bill over the phone, but Geoffrey’s manager declined the payment. The sheriff’s department was called and a citizen’s arrest was performed.
Now keep in mind that Geoffrey’s is the same restaurant where actor Mel Gibson was taken in 2006 after his drunk driving arrest and later given a ride to his car by deputies. But Mitrice had her car impounded and Deputies Armando Loureiro and Frank Browe of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Malibu/Lost Hills Department took her into custody.
According to the sheriff’s own paperwork, a report was taken at 9:50 p.m. (or 2150 hours). But on the same report, it showed that the initial call into dispatch regarding Mitrice was made at 9:55 p.m. (or 2155 hours).
According to the arresting officer, Deputy Frank Brower, a field sobriety test was given to Mitrice that indicated she was not intoxicated.
Officially, Mitrice was taken into custody for defrauding an innkeeper and possession of marijuana.
Mitrice’s mother Latice Sutton phoned the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department several times out of concern for her daughter. She didn’t want Mitrice released in the dark in an “unfamiliar” place and was reassured by the sheriff’s that Mitrice would phone her when she arrived at the station, as she was still en route.
According to news reports, the deputy on the phone assured Latice that Mitrice would be safe at the station.
“I think the only way I will come and get her tonight is if you guys are going to release her tonight,” Latice said. “She definitely…she’s not from that area, and I would hate to wake up to a morning report, ‘Girl lost somewhere with her head chopped off.’ ”
The Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department released Mitrice on September 17 a little after midnight.
Initial inquires about why Richardson was let go included that the Malibu/Lost Hills jail was overcrowded, but it was later proven that it was nowhere near capacity. Then the story changed to “We let her go because we had no reason to keep her” or in the words of the jailer, “We are not a babysitting service.”
One deputy suggested that she caught the bus. At the time, the closest bus line servicing Agoura Hills, Malibu, Woodland Hills and Thousands Oaks was Metro’s 161 line. Unfortunately, it stopped running eastbound after 8:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and westbound at 7:34 p.m.
Mitrice was released without her car, cell phone or any money.
A lot happened between September 17, 2009 and August 9, 2010 when Mitrice’s naked body was found in a ravine less than eight miles from the Malibu/Lost Hills sheriff’s station and within two miles of the location where she was last seen.
Not only was she killed, her character was assassinated after it was reported she was a dancer and a lesbian.
The Sheriff’s Department’s Captain Thomas Martin told Mitrice’s family that no jail cell video existed of their daughter. We determined that to be a lie when on January 6, 2010, Latice, Mitrice’s aunt Lauren and two friends sat down with Martin and then Sheriff Lee Baca at LASD headquarters in Monterey Park and Martin said that there was a video and that it was in his desk drawer.
For his troubles and in typical LASD fashion, Martin, a 34-year LASD veteran, was promoted to commander and transferred to Monterey Park.
One of my favorite incidents involved Mitrice’s father Michael Richardson reaching out to then Malibu Mayor Andy Stern regarding his missing daughter.
The Mayor tells Mr. Richardson that he’s on his way to a meeting and doesn’t have time to stop and speak with him. Mr. Richardson then calls the Mayor’s real estate business’ cell phone posing as a Black football star interested in one of the Mayor’s million dollar homes for sale. The Mayor offers to cancel his previously scheduled meeting and meet him right away at the property for a showing.
When the Mayor realizes that he’s speaking to Mr. Richardson, who he just said he didn’t have time for, the Mayor is embarrassed. Shortly after, in record history, the City of Malibu authorizes a $15,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Mitrice Richardson, all spearheaded by Mayor Andy Stern. Imagine that.
When Mitrice was finally found there was no shortage of theories from the Sheriff’s Department on what happened to her.
Let’s see, there was the theory that Yogi and Boo Boo managed to undress Mitrice, kill her in the wild and then place her clothes 5 feet away from her body.
There was the theory that the water from the ravine magically undressed Mitrice and placed her clothing 5 feet from her body.
There was the suicide theory.
But the one theory the Sheriff’s Department was always quick to disavow was any belief that one of their deputies was directly involved with Mitrice’s death.
I, like many others do not believe that Mitrice Richardson undressed herself and took her own life.
I believe that it was murder, plain and simple.
Do I think that the Sheriff’s Department had anything to do with her death? Absolutely.
Whether directly or indirectly, it was the Sheriff’s Department that let Mitrice Richardson out in the middle of night never to be seen alive again. So yes, they are to blame.
Then there’s that little shady business involving the deputy seen on video exiting the station about two minutes after Mitrice which to this day the LASD refuses to comment about. He’s since been transferred from the Malibu/Lost Hills Station to parts unknown.
And remember, this is the same Sheriff’s Department that was criticized by the Los Angeles County Coroner after deputies removed the remains of Mitrice from the ravine without permission. This after detectives were concerned that it was getting dark and that animals might destroy what was left of Mitrice.
In 2015, the death of Mitrice Richardson is still an unsolved mystery.
According to Dr. Rhonda Hampton, a close friend of Mitrce’s family, Michael Rossen is now the officer in charge of the Mitrice Richardson case. According to Hampton, Rossen says it is classified as an “open death investigation,” that is now “lead or clue driven … as clues come in, they will investigate them.”
Back here on planet Earth, the Mitrice Richardson case has gone from cold to freezing as the LASD has taken no real interest in finding out what happened to Mitrice.
Where are Detectives Olivia Benson, John Munch, Elliot Stabler and Odafin Tutuola when you really need them?
Since Mitrice’s death, Sheriff Lee Baca has retired and seemingly escaped any culpability. Others involved in Mitrice’s disappearance have also retired or have been promoted and transferred out of the Malibu/Lost Hills Station.
But let me remind you—there is no statute of limitations on murder. I’ll add to that given the recent scandals coming out of the LASD—it’s not that hard to believe that someone in that Department might have had something to do with Mitrice’s death.
Finally, while a lot of attention has been given to the Los Angeles Police Department for their many many deadly shenanigans—and rightfully so—the LASD doesn’t get a pass.
As angry as folks are about Ezell Ford, Clinton Alford, Omar Abrego, Brother Africa, Brendon Glenn and all of the other beatings and LAPD officer-involved-shootings—they need to also be concerned with the LASD and Mitrice Richardson.
Her life mattered back then and it still matters today.
Say her name: Mitrice Richardson.
Read more on Mitrice Richardson’s life and death HERE.
Jasmyne A. Cannick is an award-winning journalist and a native of Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of race, pop culture, class, and politics. She was chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and One of the Most Influential African-Americans in Los Angeles Under 40. She can be found online at jasmyneonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jasmyne and on Facebook at facebook.com/jasmynecannick.