After Mitrice Richardson made a number of odd social media posts and ended a relationship, her body was found partially mummified in California. Is this a case of a tragic death of a mentally-ill 24-year-old woman, or something far more sinister, involving a police cover-up?
Mitrice Richardson, age 24, was known as naturally compassionate and rather busy—with two jobs (as a store clerk and a dancer at an LGBTQIA+ club), as well as an internship in her field of study, psychology. A lover of sunflowers and closest with her grandmother, Mitrice was a gifted and ambitious student with high hopes for her future and the determination to make them come true. That’s why her family was deeply concerned when her behavior grew erratic, shortly before she disappeared.
The day Mitrice went missing
Mitrice Richardson was arrested on September 17, 2009, after exhibiting erratic behavior at a restaurant, where she allegedly sat with a party of seven she did not know and ordered a piece of Kobe beef that she then could not afford. The staff at Geoffrey’s Restaurant, in Malibu, California, believed she was experiencing a mental health crisis and sought help for her, but Mitrice was instead taken into police custody for failing to pay her bill.
Her car was impounded outside of the restaurant, containing her phone, money, and keys, so when she was allegedly released from a Calabasas jail in the early morning, Mitrice had no safe way to get home or way to contact someone for help. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department claimed that, at the time of her release, Mitrise was not showing signs of intoxication or mental illness. She was seen in a stranger’s backyard at 6:30AM in Monte Nido, and the police were called, but she was never seen again.
When Mitrice was discovered
Mitrice’s body was discovered in Malibu Canyon on August 9, 2010, about a year after she disappeared. Near her body was racially and sexually themed graffiti which appeared fresh, along with paint cans and similar material. Adjacent to the creek bed where Mitrice’s body was found is a ranch well known by law enforcement as a pornography production location. Locals claim to have heard screams in the area within the next few nights after Mitrice’s disappearance.
Mitrice’s body was found naked and mummified, with her skull found separately from the rest of her body and her clothes scattered throughout the ravine. Despite the bizarre circumstances under which the body was discovered, and its condition, Mitrice’s case was never declared a homicide, and police have determined that foul play was not involved. Her family refuses to accept this as an answer.
Where the case stands today
13 years after Mitrice went missing and 12 years after her mummified remains were discovered, investigators are no closer to solving Mitrice’s death. Mitrice’s family sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for releasing Mitrice during a mental health episode; an investigation was originally rejected but was eventually opened in 2016 to determine if the sheriff’s office mishandled the investigation in any way. Mitrice’s family is particularly concerned that her body was removed from the crime scene against the orders of the Coroner by detectives who were working on the case; this runs counter to how investigations are normally conducted and demonstrates possible misconduct in the handling of the case. The California Attorney General’s Office determined in late 2016 that there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that the Sheriff’s Department’s conduct was criminal, and charges were never filed, though Mitrice’s relatives were awarded $450,000 in 2011 for civil wrongful death charges.
There is currently a $20,000 reward offered to anyone with information about Mitrice’s death. Those with information are asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.