Though the name Mitrice Richardson is likely known to every adult resident of Malibu, the five-year anniversary of the discovery of her remains in Malibu Canyon came and went this past August with little fanfare in the city.
The disturbing story of what happened to the 24-year-old, who went missing in September 2009 and whose remains were eventually discovered 11 months later in Malibu Canyon, is now the subject of a documentary that was recently shown at Regal Cinemas here in Malibu as part of the Malibu Film Festival. The film, “Lost Compassion,” tells the story of what happened to Richardson that September night and what has (and hasn’t) occurred in the years that followed.
Though the crowd was not largely comprised of Malibu residents, filmmakers said it was important to bring the issue to light once again in the heart of where the incident occurred.
“It meant a lot to see it screened [in Malibu] at this time,” said “Lost Compassion” Producer Charles “Chip” Croft, in an email to The Malibu Times. “[It] was a dream come true getting it shown in Malibu in a major theater because it gives us a better chance to get people who know to come forward.”
Croft, who produced the film with Ronda L. Hampton, PhD, was referring to the filmmakers’ hope that people with information regarding the disappearance of Richardson may still step forward to help solve the mystery of what happened to the young woman.
On the evening of Sept. 16, 2009, Richardson was arrested at Geoffrey’s in Malibu after she was unable to pay her $89 bill. According to Geoffrey’s management, she was also acting erratically and speaking in a “made up language” about “Mars.”
At 11:03 p.m., Richardson was booked at the Lost Hills Station. She was released the same night at 12:35 a.m. without her car, purse or telephone.
According to an interview conducted that month by The Malibu Times with Lost Hills Sheriff’s Cpt. Tom Martin, releasing Richardson alone at that hour was in line with LASD protocol, since they offered to allow her to stay overnight if she wished.
“She said she didn’t want to do that and that she was going to meet friends,” Martin told The Malibu Times. “We were obligated to release her at that point.”
In the early morning of Sept. 17, Mitrice was reportedly seen on the front lawn of a nearby residence. That would be the last time she was seen alive.
Eleven months later, Richardson’s remains were found in Malibu Canyon, yards from her clothing. An autopsy and investigation has not proven how she died or whether there was any foul play involved, though her family insists she would not have willingly gone into the canyon alone.
More questions and allegations still swirl around the investigation, including when and how the remains were moved and whether or not there is a videotape of Richardson’s time in jail.
In addition, filmmakers Croft and Hampton contend that sheriff’s deputies today are not participating and taking possible leads seriously.
“The LASD and LAPD still doing absolutely nothing. The LASD said they wanted to be more transparent yet they are being totally silent, including the new Sheriff McDonnell, to all of our efforts to contact them, meet them and to try to get the video of Mitrice in jail,” Croft complained in his email.
Sheriff’s personnel said the case is still open.
“Past leads have been exhausted. The case is open, and any new leads will be pursued when they are received by the Sheriff’s Department,” Cmndr. Rod Kusch said in an emailed statement. “It is a death investigation at this time, as the Coroner’s office has not ruled it a homicide.”
The film seemed to sway the opinions of Malibu residents who were in attendance.
“Seeing the documentary confirmed my belief that the Sheriff Dept. botched on numerous occasions,” Malibu resident Maggie Luckerath said in an emailed statement to The Malibu Times. “I learned that this documentary was made in the hopes of finding someone who knows who killed Mitrice or how her death occurred.”
“I was moved and haunted by the story,” Malibu resident Candace Bowen said.
And for Richardson’s relatives, like her aunt Lauren Sutton, the documentary merely touched on a wound that will never heal.
“All I can say is that the quote which I feel closely shows how one feels about our tragedy is by Rose Kennedy, which in effect expressed that the old adage that ‘time heals all wounds’ is not reality … while in actuality it hasn’t … for me, the loss of my beautiful niece is still raw after all these years, because it didn’t have to be, we should not have been put on this journey of hurt, deception and loss. The scar tissue is there protecting the mind, but the pain is there as well.”