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The Frustrating Disappearance of Mitrice Richardson

mitrice richardson investigation

Mitrice Richardson was born on 30th April 1985; her parents divorced when she was very young, and her mother later remarried. Her father spent some time in prison when she was just a child too. Once he was released, though, he turned his life around and got work in the health industry; despite this, his relationship with Mitrice was strained until she was older, then is when they started to get closer.

Early Life

Mitrice was pretty, thoughtful and kind and was a “friendly with everyone” kind of person and always wanted to be everybody’s friend.

In 2008, she graduated from California State University with a BA in Psychology. She was a bright student and was wanting to go into graduate school. In the meantime, she started interning at the office of Ronda Hampton, who was a clinical psychologist and a close friend of the family.

Mitrice Richardson was an open lesbian, and during this time, was in a long term relationship with her girlfriend, Tessa Moon. She would even work part-time as a dancer at an LGBTQ+ Strip Club in her spare time and did some modelling.

Everything seemed to be going okay until the Fall of 2009, and things started to change with Mitrice. Something seemed not quite right with her, she broke up with Tessa after two years of being together, which also had a big impact on her mood, but that wasn’t the only thing that changed her behaviour.

Mysterious Case of Mitrice Richardson

Mitrice had bipolar disorder, now we are not sure if she was ever diagnosed, but she seemed to have it under control until now. Mitrice started sending weird text messages to her dad and was posting odd things on social media. For example, one of her final posts said, “I just wanna sleep lol, but u know me and my crazy ideas… Let’s see where they take me”. Her dad started to get concerned and tried to reach out multiple times but had no luck.

On Wednesday 16th September 2009, Mitrice spontaneously decided she wanted to go to her great grandmother’s Mildred’s home in South L.A. So she started to drive up there, which took about 40 minutes from Malibu.

On the way, she pulled over into Geoffrey’s, a high-end chain of restaurants in the Malibu area; she got out of her car and approached the valet. The valet recalls that Mitrice didn’t seem right and was acting manic, talking about “avenging the death of Michael Jackson”. The valet just thought she was an eccentric, so he got into her car and parked it up for her. On his return, though, he found her in HIS car, rifling through his things and the glove box. He went over, asked her to get out and asked if she was alright. She didn’t say anything but complied and just walked into the restaurant.

Once in the restaurant, she walked up to a group’s table and invited herself to sit with them. She was acting bizarre, coming out with strange statements like saying she was from Mars. The group entertained her and played along with her odd behaviour, as she wasn’t being threatening, and they didn’t mind that she interrupted their dinner.

She ordered herself a Kobe steak and an Ocean Breeze cocktail, which in this restaurant came to $89, which she was unable to pay for as she left her purse in her car. The restaurant tried to be as nice as possible and asked if she knew anyone who could pay for the meal. The only person she could think of was her great grandmother Mildred, so she rang her and asked if she could pay for her. She agreed, but the restaurant needed her to fax over a signed signature to authorise the payment, and her great grandmother didn’t have a fax machine.

So the restaurant manager, at a complete loss at what to do, rang the police. He said he did this because he was worried about her welfare, saying to Mitrice that she would be safer in custody than on her own. While NORMALLY, that would be the case, unfortunately, this is when things start to get real messy.

At around 9 pm, three Deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) were dispatched. They interpreted the manager’s call, where he said she was acting “euphoric and a little odd” as that she was just high on drugs or just very drunk.

On their arrival, she passed the sobriety test. Despite this, they charged her with “defrauding an innkeeper” and possession of marijuana (even though there was less than an ounce in her car!)

mitrice richardson

They SHOULD have taken her to have a psychiatric evaluation, but because that was too hard, they just arrested her instead. The restaurant didn’t press charges in the end for not paying her bill. I wish that was the happy ending to this story.

Her car was impounded, as were all of her possessions, including her phone and purse. The police drove her to the station and booked her in at 11 pm. She made four phone calls that night from the station; she said they were to her great grandmother, but what is strange is that Mildred insists that she never got a call that evening, and there is no phone record of this taking place.

Her mother, Latice, found out what happened to her daughter and rang the station. She asked the police whether they were keeping her there until the morning or going to release her that evening, as she said she would come to get her with it being an unfamiliar area, and she didn’t want her getting lost. She even joked with the deputy officer on the phone, saying, “I would hate to wake up to a morning report: Girl lost somewhere and her head chopped off”.

Release from Custody

The Deputy assured Latice, MULTIPLE times, that they would keep Mitrice Richardson in custody and release her in the morning. This phone call happened at about 12:30 am.

So guess what happened, literally 5 MINUTES AFTER the call with Mitrice’s mother ended. They RELEASED her from custody! All they told her was that she could sleep in the lobby until the morning until her mother comes to get her (even though her mother LITERALLY said she would pick her up whenever she was released).

Now, let’s remember that Mitrice Richardson clearly had something going on at this point and was not really in a position to make ANY decisions for herself at this time. So when given the option to wait or to leave, she chose to leave.

I feel like most people would choose to leave at this point. No one wants to hang around a police station unless they have to, even if released.

The police footage shows her leaving the station after being discharged that evening.

Although, just by coincidence, that footage got lost for MONTHS afterwards, but was MIRACULOUSLY found in the desk drawer of Sheriff Captain Thomas Martin. There was a lot of confusion around this, and I read that the Captain tried to get around this massive fuck up by saying he thought the family wanted to see footage of outside the station and not inside. He clearly knew what they meant, and he was just beating around the bush at this point.

So this Police Station is called Lost Hills station, it was in the middle of nowhere. Mitrice had no phone to call anyone, no money for a taxi or even a jacket to keep her warm. So she began to walk back up the road that she was initially on when she was driven to the station, towards the Santa Monica Mountains.

This was no EASY stroll. It was treacherous and PITCH BLACK; there were no street lights in the mountains! To put it into perspective a bit more for you all, to do that walk would take 6 hours, and that is with good light, and assuming you had the right equipment and clothing to do it. Mitrice Richardson had NONE of these things.

The Next Morning

So at 5:30 am the following day, Latice, Mitrice’s mother rings the station to ask about her daughter and see if she can come to get her. To which they said she was already released. Understandably upset and angry that they lied to her, she asked them to file a missing person’s report. The Deputy on the phone didn’t seem to care about this request and told her to wait for 24hrs.

During this time, a former reporter for KTLA News ‘Bill Smith’ called into the station to report a “slim, black woman with afro hair” was wandering around his backyard early that same morning around 6:30 am would be about 6 hours after Mitrice was released. His residence was about 6 miles from the station and located at the bottom of Dark Canyon in a gated community. Bill recalled that he shouted out of his window, asking what she was doing and if she was okay. To which she replied, “Just resting”. By the time he got some clothes on and ran down to see if he could help, she had already disappeared back into the mountains behind his home.

The Sheriff’s “investigation” of this disappearance, if you can even call it that, was diabolical. It became very clear, very quickly, that the police didn’t care. It took them TWO days after Bill Smith’s call about Mitrice wandering in his backyard to go check it out. When they got there, they did find some sneaker trails that didn’t match any of Bill Smiths shoes, but they didn’t investigate it any further.

They did go and check out her impounded car, with all of her stuff in it. In which they found her diary. On some of her last entries, they read that she’d probably not slept for about five days, which would mean her actions over the past couple of days make more sense. It seemed she was perhaps already having a mental health episode and had extreme delirium from not sleeping.

sheriff lee baca
Sheriff Lee Baca

Whilst they were doing a shit job investigating, her mother was STILL trying to file a missing person report. They finally reported it but put the case with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which was around ONE HOUR away from where Mitrice Richardson disappeared. From what I could find out, it seems that even though they transferred the case, the Sheriff’s Department was still unfortunately involved.

Despite all this, the family were FINALLY promised a massive two-day search for Mitrice starting on Saturday the 19th September, with the whole search bundle, from helicopters to search dogs, and they’d use every resource available to them. Sounds great, right? Well…

The Search for Mitrice Richardson

When the actual day arrived, they only got four Deputies to go round some of the area’s neighbourhoods. By this point, it had been three whole days since she had gone missing, and the police still had no information on her whereabouts. If they had the resources they promised in the first place, maybe that would have been different. They couldn’t even be bothered to search until dark; they packed up way before then and promised to start again on the 20th but SHOCKER, they never did.

This was a HUGE smack to the face for Mitrice’s family and the final straw for them, to confirm to them that the police had NO interest WHATSOEVER in finding Mitrice.

So they started taking the matter into their own hands. They made flyers to hand out to anyone and hang anywhere they possibly could and were carrying out their own searches.

So whilst the poor family were trying to find their daughter, the Sheriff’s department, they were busy trying to cover their backs, trying to defend their decision to arrest her at the restaurant and not get her psychiatric help. They even tried to say that Mitrice seemed “perfectly fine” when she was discharged. “She was lucid; she didn’t exhibit any mental problems,” said Steve Whitmore, an L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. He was trying to say that because she passed the sobriety test, they did on her that she was clearly OK. (WTF).

Her mother was having NONE of it, though, saying, “if the officer saw her behaviour and decided to administer a field sobriety test, he must have realised something was wrong”.

Although this didn’t stop the Sheriff’s Department from trying to create even MORE webs of lies to cover up their misconduct, from saying the jail was too “full”, that’s why they released her (which was later disproved). They then said they didn’t have a good reason to keep her any longer, meaning till the following day (even though they said to her mother they probably would and would let her know when they release her). THEN they just went full, not giving a fuck and just said they were not “a babysitting service”.

The back story on the Sheriff in charge

Sheriff Lee Baca was Sheriff from 1998 to 2014. Google defines him as the very definition of a “bad cop”, and he was involved in multiple scandals during his time as Sheriff. Including lying to the FBI about the abuse of inmates in LA County Jails.

Finally, in February 2020, he began a three-year sentence in Federal Correctional Institution La Tuna, a low-security prison outside El Paso, Texas, for his role in obstructing this particular case.

Paul Tanaka, second in command at LASD, was sentenced to five years in prison for the same thing (it is not clear why he got five, and the actual SHERIFF only got three years?! It’s insane.) Tanaka had also been traced back to having ties with the white supremacy gang, the Lynwood Vikings. (just a class guy all around! Why the hell is he even able to be involved with the Sheriff’s Office if he has clear white supremacist ties?!)

That’s enough about them, back to this tragic story.

Where is Mitrice?

Michael Richardson, Mitrice’s father, was at his wit’s end with the lack of interest and progression of Mitrice’s case. He even called the Mayor of Malibu, Andy Stern, to try and help get something done. But Andy was also not interested and didn’t care about what Michael had to say; all he told him was he was on his way to a meeting and didn’t have time to talk.

This just fuelled Michael even more, so he researched and found out he was a real estate magnate whose properties went for millions. So Michael found his real estate business number and pretended to be a high profile American football player interested in a property.

Andy Stern was extremely accommodating too and even offered to cancel the meeting he said he was about to go in when Michael tried to ring earlier that day. So Michael told him to meet him, and when Andy realised that it was Michael, he was flabbergasted. He realised if it came out that he ignored a missing girl report over a million-dollar deal with some football player, that would NOT look good on him.

michael richardson holding a photo of mitrice

So come November 2009, the city of Malibu issued a $15,000 reward for anyone with ANY information regarding Mitrice Richardson’s disappearance and current whereabouts.

On 10th January 2010, MONTHS after Mitrice’s disappearance, the Sheriff’s Department finally conducted the RIGHT kind of search. It was one of the most extensive searches for a missing person EVER carried out by the LASD.

The search included 336 trained searchers, scouring 18 square miles of ridges, canyons, trails, horses, on foot and using trained dogs. Helicopters would even drop searchers into more challenging to reach places for them to search. This, unfortunately, didn’t turn up any evidence, but what it did do was give the family hope that she was still alive. Michael said, “The beautiful thing about today is that they didn’t find a cadaver”.

So remember that “lost” footage that “magically” reappeared? The Sheriff’s Dept. didn’t find it until MARCH 2010 when the family were able to watch it. Her mother saw so many red flags; she saw her daughter was distressed, parts of the tape were edited out, and it was clear that Mitrice was acting manic. They had recovered the footage from inside the cell, and it showed how erratic she was; she was grabbing the door handle and swinging back and forth and pulling the back of her hair.

Her mother saw how much her daughter was suffering that night and how little the deputies cared about her. But because of the information that the LASD was not sharing, what happened that night will never truly be known.

But her mother did file a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials. The main reason for filing the case, she said, was to give them the right to demand information about the night Richardson was arrested. “This magical lawsuit will allow me to obtain every single document in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department and to depose every officer and detective involved.”

Finding Mitrice Richardson …?

Around 1 pm on 9th August 2010, park rangers were patrolling the Dark Canyon for illegal marijuana growing, a big problem around that area, due to the remoteness. These patrollers would go off any trials and into challenging places to reach.

They were about 8 miles from the station and 2 miles from Bill Smith’s home. They were making their way through a deep ravine when they came across a human skull. They called it in around 1:30 pm, and deputies arrived around 3 pm. It was that treacherous they needed to wait for a helicopter to take them up there.

You’re probably thinking, thank god the Police might actually do something now! NOPE. A Coroner’s team was called about 5 pm, and they were preparing to do the usual, tape the scene, take pictures, and carefully handle any remains. WELL. Not by ANY surprise that didn’t happen. They airlifted the detectives to the location, but NOT the coroners?! In fact, from what I could find, I don’t think they were EVER sent up there, which is utterly shocking!

The Sheriff informed the family about the remains being found and that they are sure it’s Mitrice. The family had many questions, to which the deputy was very rude and dismissive, not giving them complete answers and even told them they would deal with it like a crime scene, which was a LIE.

They also told the family that they would airlift the remains out the next day because it would get dark soon, which was a what… A LIE… Yep, they didn’t wait till the morning, instead, at around 8 pm that evening, the deputies just grabbed up some remains, not even TRYING to look for all of them, leaving many of the remains up there, but they got back in the helicopter and flew back to the station.

The coroner’s office was dumbfounded when they found out what the Sheriff Department had done, stating to the LA Times that they “were very clear” with Sheriff’s officials regarding how they should handle the remains. They added that they “could not think of another case in which a police agency had moved entire skeletal remains without coroner’s approval.”

On 13th August, Sheriff Baca (yup, that bastard) made a statement, where he announced that the body found in the ravine was that of Mitrice Richardson. “We have no indication of a homicide at this point. I don’t believe that the remains are capable of telling us a story,” he said.

He even went on to say that they could only find “some” bones and a skull. Which was a what? A LIE. What they ACTUALLY found was a large number of mummified remains as well. But they weirdly didn’t disclose that, did they?

Mitrice’s mother was finally able to convince the Sheriff to let her and some close friends visit the scene, and whilst they were there making a little memorial for Mitrice, this made me sick to my stomach. Her mother found one of Mitrice’s FINGERS! This discovery goes to show how fucked up this WHOLE investigation was.

mitrice memorial
Latice Richardson and friends holding a memorial for Mitrice

What Happened?

We’ll never know what actually happened to Mitrice Richardson. There are many different speculations. One of which is it was a homicide; even though the LASD were ADAMANT that there was no foul play. I mean, for one, you can’t trust a WORD that comes out of their mouths. PLUS, the fact they were SO adamant is almost fishy in itself.

Even a detective from the LAPD said, “it sounds like someone abducted her, killed her and at some point dumped her body”. Also, there is something weird about her clothes; they were found slightly further up the ravine and didn’t show any signs of animals damaging them, so did she remove them herself? Or did someone else do it?

Mitrice Richardson’s Hyoid bone was never found, but it could be a nod to strangulation if it were broken. This goes back to when stupid Baca said he doesn’t believe remains are capable of telling a story; they definitely can! They can say ALOT if someone has been murdered.

Another thing that could maybe mean she was murdered was that some parts of her body were mummified, which suggests it was buried somewhere, dug up, and then dumped in the ravine later.

But with all these speculations, the coroners put the death as undetermined. Maybe if they had been allowed to do it properly, we would have had a different outcome.

Justice for the Richardson’s

The Richardson Family believe there was foul play. However, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LASD, saying that Mitrice should not have been released in the condition she was in and that she was not mentally capable of helping herself. They won and received $900,000 and split it equally.

Mitrice Richardson’s family have never stopped pursuing justice. In February 2016, California Attorney General Kamala Harris agreed to open an investigation into Mitrice’s death (yes, that Kamala Harris, the current Vice President of the United States). This was after Michael wrote her a letter saying, “You see, Ms Harris, I look at you, and I see Mitrice Richardson. A young, intelligent, smart, black, and beautiful young lady who busted her butt in school to one day become someone who could be helpful and make a difference.”

Now you’re thinking, great, Kamala will have this shit solved ASAP. You’ve gotta be having a laugh! OF COURSE NOT!

After a year of having the case in Attorney General Harris’s office, they sent out a letter saying that they couldn’t find any wrongdoing in the handling of the Mitrice Richardson case. (Were they reading the same report as literally everybody else?!) So they decided to drop the case.

Michael was NOT happy with this decision. He thinks the only reason Kamala took on this case was that it was a year running up to her race for the United States Senate, so she took it on to look good and then dropped it once she won. I like Kamala, but… I’m smelling fishiness. There must have been something else going on here. Michael said, “Kamala Harris is a phoney. We don’t need people like that leading us”.

There was one more glimmer of hope when the new LA County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva. At a memorial service for Mitrice on the 7th of September 2019, he announced he would assess the whole case from the beginning with a “fresh pair of eyes”.

Re-Assessing the Case

HOWEVER…. yep, you guessed it. A few weeks later, he said there would not be a new investigation. He had re-read the department’s investigation and saw “no reason to rehash a case already subjected to investigations by the State Attorney General’s Office, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department’s Internal review”. You couldn’t write this shit. There has to be other involvement here stopping these people from adequately looking into it, surely).

This was another horrible blow to the Richardson Family.

Villanueva did go over the changes they would be making in the LASD, which would avoid what happened to Mitrice Richardson happening to someone else.

  • A missing person’s report for an adult can now be filed right away, instead of waiting 24 hours, as the Deputy on the phone told Latice the night Mitrice disappeared.
  • Deputies will ensure that people have their cellphones and other personal belongings before they are released from jail.
  • Most importantly, Villanueva said that they would evaluate people exhibiting mental health problems before being released.


So he’s basically saying how a REASONABLE or ACTUAL Police Officer should behave.

Mitrice Richardson’s case has never been closed, Villanueva said, and the department continues to welcome any new information.


That is the heartbreaking story of Mitrice Richardson.

My sources for this podcast were from: 

Nikki Halliwell (She/Her)

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3 Responses

  1. I just found out about this case and I have spent the last several hours reading first the LA magazine article you used as a source, then looking for any updates that might tell me justice has finally been reached. Of course, I’ve found nothing, just the same frustrating BS that you describe in your article. I am just sick and appalled that the promising life of this beautiful, well-educated young woman was ended in such a way. There is no excuse for the gross negligence & apathy showed by police with regards to this case. It is all too apparent that the LASD was somehow complicit in Mitrice’s disappearance, and it is so disheartening & frankly, disgusting that public officials (including Kamala Harris, who so many people respect as a true “leader for the people”– what a joke!) have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the facts. My heart goes out to Mitrice’s family. Thank you for your article, which filled in some additional details I hadn’t heard (white supremacist sheriffs? OMFG!) & provided the update I was looking for… Too bad you couldn’t write that Mitrice’s case is finally being treated with the respect it deserves, or that this beautiful young woman will receive the justice she so desperately deserves. Sorry for the length of this comment but I just had to get these feelings off my chest. Thanks again for spreading the word about how our system failed this family.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Corey, it means a lot and we are so glad you found the information useful. We will continue to update the article if there are any developments but, like you, we remain frustrated that justice has still not been achieved for Mitrice and her family.

  2. Definitely gross negligence of the Sheriff’s department, no doubt. I just saw on KABC, Unsolved LA, Mitrice Richardson, where after her release she walked 5 miles and was spotted in the the yard of a man who called the police describing Mitrice wearing “tight jeans and a t-shirt, but when he came out of his house she was gone! Strangely, he described her clothes vividly to have not personally seen her other than from inside his house! Second, the show mentions that her shoes indicate she appeared to be “running” from that location! And last, her body was found in the canyon only a mile away from that home mummified and dismembered, meaning she was kept somewhere before being located there! I really wonder if that person was ever really investigated since he was the last person to see her alive and the police didn’t even show up there until 2 hours later!

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