The case of Mitrice Richardson is a tragic chapter in the history of Malibu and heartbreaking for her friends and loved ones who still grieve her loss under mysterious circumstances.
It was 12 years ago this week the 24-year-old couldn’t pay her bill at Geoffrey’s Restaurant. Richardson was there alone and appeared to be suffering perhaps one of her first ever mental health episodes. The young woman was arrested and taken to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station but was released from jail after midnight with no cell phone or money, left to find her way home in darkness by foot in an unfamiliar area—the station is just blocks from Malibu Creek State Park and hundreds of acres of open space, steep canyons and unlit roadways. Eleven months later, Richardson’s body was found in a remote canyon off Piuma Road.
In later interviews, an LASD captain said officers offered to allow Richardson to stay overnight, but she declined.
All sorts of theories and misinformation swirled on the internet surrounding the case, but Richardson’s mother, Latice Sutton, would like people to know her daughter was more than just a victim.
“What I would like people to know and associate with Mitrice is humanity—just being caring and loving toward one anotherbeing there to step in and help others when they are in need,” Sutton said in a recent interview with The Malibu Times. “That’s what Mitrice was about. She was definitely an advocate for others. That was a passion of Mitrice’s when she was alive.”
After Richardson’s death, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris did not pursue charges against the LA County Sheriff’s Department in its handling of Richardson and her subsequent release from jail, concluding there was no evidence to prosecute deputies. Sutton says she was let down that the attorney general’s office wouldn’t investigate the LASD handling of Mitrice’s case. Sutton did, however, settle a civil judgment against the LASD, “unrelated to Mitrice and the negligence involved. I didn’t want to put my family through that. I had to settle in order to get the attorneys paid, but the whole case was not an effort to dupe Los Angeles out of any sums of money,” Sutton stated.
At the anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance, Sutton shared with TMT memories of Mitrice. She was a graduate of Cal State Fullerton in the process of applying to graduate school for an advanced degree in psychology. Were she alive today, Richardson would be 36.
“She believed it was important for everyone to get an education,” her mother said. “Mitrice was a loving spirit. She was a joy to be around. To not have her is very painful to say the least. We are missing having her around.”
“I want people to remember the positive aspects of Mitrice,” Sutton added. “Remember her kindness, her love, her advocacy.”
The unimaginable grief Sutton bared after her daughter’s apparent murder is chronicled in her book, “Mitrice. A Mother’s Journey from Despair to Desire.”
“Losing a child is never, never something that anyone can ever prepare for. To get through that process I believe that it is important to have a spiritual foundation to hold on to,” Sutton said. “For me in my journey, the way I’ve been able to continue on and find strength is because of my faith in God.
“The more I became connected to the word of God and getting into that spiritual place, the more the heaviness of the grief was lifted off of me. I was able to then focus on Mitrice’s life and the joy I had for the time that I had her,” Sutton said, growing emotional. “I’m able to celebrate her life going forward because I can thank my God for allowing me to have her for the 24 years I had her and focus on that instead of focusing on the trauma of losing her and how I lost her because the more you focus on how you lost your child—your baby—the more it keeps you in despair and you’re just stuck. You’ve got to hold on to God, something greater than you to get out of that grief. That’s what worked for me.”
Eleven years after her remains were located, Richardson’s death is still unsolved.
“Someone in the community knows something about what happened to Mitrice,” Sutton said. “We need them to come forward. We need to bring those involved with Mitrice’s murder to justice. We’re not going to be able to do that without the help of the individual or individuals who know what happened to Mitrice. Please help us bring justice to Mitrice.”
Latice Sutton’s book, “Mitrice: A Mother’s Journey from Despair to Desire,” chronicling the case and her personal journey to overcome grief, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.