Booking Cage Video of Mitrice Richardson Generates New Family Concerns
• Mother Demands Information on Deputy Apparently Leaving Station Right After the Missing Woman
BY ANNE SOBLE’
A series of citywide all-volunteer field searches for the Los Angeles woman who disappeared after a Malibu restaurant incident led to her being booked on two misdemeanor charges at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station on Sept. 16, 2009, took place last Sunday but produced no new leads.
Mitrice Richardson, 24, a Cal State Fullerton honors graduate, was released from Lost Hills shortly after midnight the next day with no money or cell phone. Her purse was in her impounded car in the Malibu tow yard.
Richardson had been arrested at Geoffrey’s restaurant for not paying a dinner bill. Staff and diners indicated she was acting bizarrely and speaking gibberish.
Several official agency search efforts, including local search and rescue teams, covered areas surrounding the Lost Hills station but there has not been a single clue to her whereabouts.
Latice Sutton, the mother of Mitrice Richardson who agrees with medical assessment that her daughter might have been experiencing a bipolar onset, and a circle of relatives and friends say they are growing impatient with what they see as foot-dragging by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the City of Los Angeles Police Department—the agency in charge of what is still classified as a missing person case six months later.
Last Sunday’s volunteer search teams were in Malibu, Calabasas, Santa Monica, Venice, Hollywood, Skid Row and the South Central area on a sunny afternoon to distribute flyers and ask people if they might have seen the missing woman.
Family members say they continue to be buffeted by a broad spectrum of official views that run the gamut from being told to accept that Richardson is dead—the “she succumbed to the elements” theory—to hearing inferences that she is alive somewhere and does not want to be found.
Latice Sutton speaks out in frustration about the implications of both views, which she thinks are largely devised to get the family to back out of the picture and cease its ongoing efforts to keep Richardson’s name in the spotlight.
On Monday, Sutton, and her close friend and the young woman’s college mentor, psychologist Ronda Hampton, were among the small group shown an approximately two-hour videotape, the existence of which was first adamantly denied by the LASD, but is now reluctantly acknowledged.
In a conference call with the Malibu Surfside News on Tuesday, Sutton contended that the video “supports [my] theory that [sheriff’s] officers could very likely be involved in my daughter’s disappearance.”
She says, “Two minutes after the jailer walked back from letting [Richardson] out the station’s side door, an officer in uniform went outside the station.” Sutton says, “He might have offered her a ride back to her car, but didn’t do that.”
She says her daughter appears stressed in the “booking cage,” the mesh-enclosed holding pen for the booking process. “She clutches at the mesh screening and is rocking side-to-side like a small child.”
Sutton adds, “It looks as if she can’t make the telephone calls that the redacted booking records say she attempted to place to her great grandmother Mildred Harris,” who has told family members she did not receive any calls from Lost Hills the night Richardson was booked.
Sutton says it then seems as if her daughter is seeking assistance from personnel, and “is being ignored.”
Richardson is said to be tugging at strands of her hair. “Clearly something is very wrong,” Hampton assesses. “This is not normal behavior.” At one point, “[Richardson] appears to be trying to get into a fetal position face down on the concrete.”
Another aspect of the viewing that disturbs Sutton is that she says she was told by Lt. Michael Rosson, now the lead LASD investigator on the case, that the reason her daughter had to be taken to Lost Hills was because she had no identification on her, but the booking slip indicates that she had her California’s driver license and it was returned to her after the booking process was completed.
But what the women describe as “sending chills down [their] spines” was something they didn’t see at first that was spotted by Sutton’s nephew, Jonathan Sutton, “Who noticed that as the tape finished rolling and everyone’s attention was focused on Rosson, a uniformed deputy can be seen exiting the station right after Richardson left.”
They asked that the tape be shown again, and those present say, “There is no doubt that is what is on the tape minutes after [Richardson] was released.” Since that is not a routine shift time change for deputies, the women are interpreting this ominously.
Sutton is now aggressively asking that the arresting deputies and all personnel at the Lost Hills station that night and early morning be investigated.
Hampton adds that there appear to be what she calls “blips” in the tape, which she thinks indicate the possibility of editing.
The videographer who accompanied the women to the LASD meeting was not allowed to film the video with his equipment.
Additional information about the case is available on the mother’s website at www.findmitrice.info; the father Michael Richardson’s website at www.bringmitricehome.org; or by contacting Dr. Ronda Hampton at 951-660-8031; or LAPD Homicide Lt. Charles Knolls and Detective Steven Eguchi at 213-486-6900.