FBI deliberating over involvement in Mitrice Richardson case

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Remains yet to be sent to Virginia.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

Reports that the remains of Mitrice Richardson will be sent to Virginia for examination in an FBI laboratory are premature, Laura Eimiller, the FBI’s Los Angeles media coordinator, told The Malibu Times on Tuesday.

Richardson’s remains were found nearly a year after she went missing in September 2009 after being released from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station where she was booked for not paying a restaurant bill in Malibu.

Her skeletal remains were found in a rugged area of Malibu Canyon in August last year. The cause of death is not known, and the Sheriff’s Department has been severely criticized for its handling of the case.

Sheriff Lee Baca last week had told news media that the FBI was going to examine the remains. However, the Sheriff’s Department had only sent a letter of request.

“We have received a request from the Sheriff’s office, and are evaluating the extent of the assistance we’ll be providing,” Eimiller said, adding, “I think it’s safe to say we’ll provide assistance.”

However, Eimiller would not elaborate further.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters had sent a letter to the Department of Justice in May requesting that the FBI conduct an investigation into Richardson’s disappearance. Baca told the Los Angeles Times last week that the Sheriff’s Department, which has taken heavy criticism for the handling of the Richardson case, had requested the FBI’s involvement at the behest of Richardson’s family.

“It doesn’t hurt having the FBI say, ‘We’ve examined this and find the following,’” Baca told the L.A. Times. “I think the needs of the family should be my first priority.”

Baca did not make himself available for an interview for this story.

In a phone interview with The Malibu Times Sunday, Richardson’s father, Michael Richardson, had a different theory as to why Baca was going to the FBI.

“I met with Sheriff Baca in December 2009, and the information I gave him then is no different than the information they have now,” he said. “I think he’s at a point where enough evidence has been tampered with, boxed up, that he can say it will not directly implicate one of his men. I think that’s why he took this action now.”

Michael Richardson is referring to criticism that has dogged the Sheriff’s Department for its handling of Mitrice Richardson’s release after she was arrested, and the following investigation when her remains were found.

The 23-year-old Richardson was arrested Sept. 16, 2009 in Malibu after she could not pay her dining bill from a local restaurant and exhibited signs of acting strange. Sheriff’s deputies who arrived on the scene conducted field sobriety tests, former Lost Hills Sheriff’s Captain Tom Martin had said, but found that she was sober. It has since been revealed that Richardson suffered from bipolar disorder, and at the time might have been exhibiting signs of this illness.

Richardson was taken into custody for possession of marijuana in her car and defrauding an innkeeper.

She was then released after midnight from the remote Lost Hills station without a cell phone, purse or means of transportation. After leaving the station, Richardson was briefly sighted on the lawn of a nearby residence, and then was never seen again.

Many people have said it was at best a poor decision to release Richardson. The jailer who processed Richardson’s release, told the Los Angeles Times she recommended to the young woman that she stay until the morning, but Richardson refused.

Her family, through TV, print and radio interviews had galvanized the public and local governmental and law enforcement officials to search for her. Several search and rescue teams were sent into Malibu’s canyons in the ensuing months, but her remains were not found until nearly a year later.

More controversy arose after Richardson’s bones were found in a ravine in Malibu Canyon in August. A Los Angeles County coroner’s official criticized Sheriff’s deputies for moving the bones without consent from the coroner’s office. A Sheriff’s spokesman said deputies moved the bones because it was getting dark and they feared animals might destroy them.

There are two wrongful death lawsuits pending against the Sheriff’s Department. One is associated with her father and the other with her mother. The two are not a couple.