The day Mitrice Richardson went missing was a Wednesday; a significant fact because most Wednesdays Mitrice enjoyed dinners with her great grandmother, Mildred. The two were very close, with Mitrice even opting to live with Mildred at her Inglewood, CA. home, so she could help care for her. But on this particular Wednesday— September 16, 2009, Mitrice cancelled dinner with her great grandmother so she could go to the beach. Mitrice headed west towards Malibu at around 5pm. That would be the last time her family or friends would see her alive.
Mitrice was 24 years old at the time of her disappearance. Born on April 30, 1985 to parents, Latrice Harris and Michael Richardson. When her parents separated, Mitrice stayed with her mother in Covina, California. A talented student, Mitrice was the first in her family to attend college. In 2008, she graduated from California State University at Fullerton, a top public university in the 23-campus California State University system, in 2008, with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology.
By all accounts, her area of study continued to be a passion she was pursuing. Mitrice had secured an internship at a therapist’s office and the psychologist who hired her identified a “natural compassion” in Mitrice. With plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Masters Degree, Mitrice was more than busy with two jobs, in addition to the internship. During the week she was a clerk at a local shipping company in Santa Fe Springs, CA. and on Friday nights, she was a dancer at an LGBTQ night club, Debra’s, in Long Beach.
Like all of us, Mitrice’s life had highs and lows, but friends and family were growing increasingly worried about the typically outgoing and responsible women they loved. Mitrice and her girlfriend Tess, had recently broken up. Her bi-polar disorder no longer seemed to be under control. Mitrice was now sending strange text messages and posting bizarre social media posts.
To her mother on September 16th, Mitrice texted “watch the news today, it’s going to shock the hell out of you.” On Facebook she posted, “I just wanna sleep lol, but u know me and my crazy ideas...lets see where they take me.”
The day she cancelled dinner with her great grandmother to go to the beach, Mitrice drove 40 miles from South Los Angeles to Malibu. She pulled into a high end restaurant, Geoffrey’s, on the Pacific Coast Highway, around 7 PM. The valet took her car and parked it. When he got back to the valet stand, Mitrice was inside his car, rummaging through his glove box.
He asked her if she was okay and to get out of his car. She complied and entered the restaurant. Once inside, she ordered a cocktail and an expensive kobe steak. While waiting for her order, Mitrice joined a full table with a party of seven already dining. The patrons at that table were friendly to Mitrice and didn’t ask her to leave. Once they finished eating, the party of seven left and Mitrice was presented with her check which totaled $89. Unable to pay, she called her grandmother who offered to pay for the meal. The management was willing to work it out this way, but they required a faxed signature which Mildred could not provide. The restaurant then called the sheriff’s department and explained the situation.
Upon arrival, the officers administered a breathalyzer test thinking Mitrice may have been drinking or on drugs, but she passed. When asked if she had any money, Mitrice said she had a wallet in her car. While detained, officers searched her vehicle and found less than an ounce of marijuana. Mitrice was arrested and charged with defrauding an innkeeper and possession of marijuana. Once the car was impounded, they left Mitrice’s belongings, including her purse, phone, identification and ATM card, inside.
Mildred had informed Mitrice’s mother, Latrice, about the incident at Geoffrey’s. Latice called the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station to inquire about picking her daughter up. She was home with a younger daughter and it was a long drive. She was assured Mitrice wouldn't be released until the morning. Shortly after the phone call, Mitrice was released, but without any of her belongings.
Mitrice’s mother, Latrice, called again the next day because nobody had heard from or seen Mitrice. Latrice asked to file a missing persons report. The sheriff’s office transferred the missing person case to the LAPD. Both departments promised Latrice an immediate and thorough search with helicopters and dogs throughout the mountains, but three days passed before the “search” was launched. And even then, it was a much smaller investigation than Mitrice’s family had been led to believe. It consisted of just four officers on foot.
The family continued to search on their own, while frequently calling the sheriff trying to obtain more information about Mitrice’s state of mind when they encountered her, and to find out where she could have gone when she left the station.
Her family maintained hope throughout the following months even with no sign of Mitrice. Despite a reward being offered for any information on Mitrice’s whereabouts, none of the leads led to any answers.
Nearly a year later, on August 9, 2010, a park ranger was patrolling part of Dark Canyon. He was out to look into an illegal marijuana grow in the area. The area was 8 miles from the Lost Hills Station and difficult to access on foot. There were no trails, it was steep with overgrowth and jagged rocks. While making his way through the overgrowth he came across a human skull. The park ranger called the sheriffs.
Around 3 PM, they arrived on scene and via helicopter. Proper protocol required that they treat the area as a crime scene to gather evidence, with only the coroner’s office allowed to move any remains from the scene— but the coroners were never taken to the crime scene.
In addition to the skull, a partially mummified body was located away from where the skull was found. Downstream from the remains were a pink belt, black bra and blue jeans. Items that were confirmed to have been worn by Mitrice when she disappeared.
The coroner’s report reflected their office’s frustration with not being brought to the crime scene. They detailed the way the scene was handled, noting “they placed the remains on a plastic sheet, then put them into a body bag and onto a rescue basket which was lifted into an LASD-air helicopter.”
It was significant that the skull was separated from the body. But the lack of procedure, as well as the state of the remains, left little for the coroner to go on. The body was skeletonized with dried mummified skin on the bones. Even worse, some bones were missing due to the way the remains were gathered and handled by detectives. of the remains by detectives.
Eleven years later, and Mitrice’s family continues the fight for justice. They gather where she is buried and leave sunflowers, Mitrice’s favorite, and continue to hope for a break in the case. They want answers as to how this could have happened and believe that intentionally or not, the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department, is partially responsible. To that end, Mitrice’s parents filed wrongful death suits independently and were awarded $450,000 in 2011. The case is open and there is currently a $30,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction