Desperate Search Continues For Young Missing Teacher Mitrice Richardson


LOS ANGELES (CBS) It's been three weeks and still no sign of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson.

Since the substitute teacher from Los Angeles went missing on Sept. 17, more than 180 officers and volunteers have combed the rugged heart of the Santa Monica Mountains, from the Malibu-Lost Hills station to the coastline.

(MySpace Photo)
Photo: Mitrice Richardson.
Photos: Mitrice Richardson Missing

Still no Richardson.

"I Just don't know where she is," Richardson's great-grandmother Mildred Harris told Crimesider in a Friday phone interview. "I love her so much."

Ironically, the last people known to have seen her alive were Los Angeles police officers. Richardson disappeared soon after being released from a sheriff's station in the middle of the night.

Richardson had earlier been arrested because she was drunk and unable to pay an $89 bill at Geoffrey's restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu about 10 p.m., according to her parents.

At the restaurant, Richardson joined a table of diners uninvited, appeared to be drunk or out of sorts, and finally could not pay her bill, say police.

Restaurant employees called the police. Deputies took Richardson to the Malibu-Lost Hills station and booked her on suspicion of not paying for the meal and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told the Los Angeles Times.

The marijuana was allegedly found in her white 1990 Honda Civic, which was impounded.

At the time of her arrest, restaurant employees said the young teacher seemed mentally disturbed, according to the
Los Angeles Times.

According to detectives who interviewed occupants of the table Richardson joined, she was acting odd, "giddy" and "out of the ordinary." She began "sprouting gibberish" and claiming she was from Mars, the paper reported. Other witnesses said she was drunk.

(MySpace Photo)
Photo: Mitrice Richardson.
Photos: Mitrice Richardson Missing

Richardson's mother, Latice Sutton, told a CNN i-reporter that she believed reports that her daughter may have been having mental problems before she was arrested and was angry with police for releasing her without providing any additional medical care.

"There were subtle changes. She wasn't as concerned with her physical upkeep. She was texting strange things to friends, very subtle differences that only when looking back you could see the beginning of a problem," Sutton told the reporter.

But Richardson's great grandmother categorically discounted the theory that Richardson had mental problems.

"The reports being made about my granddaughter are completely out of character," she said through tears. "She is not mentally disturbed."

Deputies at the station thought Richardson was behaving normally when they released her early Friday morning Sept. 18, at around 1:25 a.m. "She exhibited no signs of mental illness or intoxication. She was fine. She's an adult," Whitmore said.

He also said the jailer offered to let Richardson stay through the night, but she declined.

According to Sutton, a manager she spoke to at Geoffrey's restaurant said Richardson appeared to be in "no condition to drive" while at the restaurant.

Sutton said she called the Malibu-Lost Hills station to ask about posting bail and picking up her daughter, but deputies told her they had released her because they did not have room to keep her in jail.


Photo: Mitrice Richardson.
Photos: Mitrice Richardson Missing

The sheriff's station is in a industrial business park that is unfamiliar to the woman, her family said. It is not served by buses at night, and family members say the woman has not contacted them or been seen since Sept. 16.

The woman's father, Michael Richardson, said he was worried about his daughter's mental state after seeing her booking photo.

"They allowed her to walk out of that facility and down that road in the pitch black night," he told the Los Angeles Times. "That's not right. Now, I just want to find my child."

The woman's mother said deputies told her nearby residents had called to say a woman was sleeping on porches, indicating to her that Richardson was stumbling around a nearby residential neighborhood early Friday. Her parents filed a missing person report with the LAPD.

The LAPD are also looking into homeless shelters and mental health communities.

"If she did have a mental breakdown of any kind and came in contact with a law enforcement officer, she may have been transferred to a mental health facility as a Jane Doe," LAPD robbery-homicide Detective Chuck Knolls told Crimesider on Friday.

Richardson is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and recently moved to Los Angeles to live with her grandmother near the area where she planned on teaching. Police say she last made contact with her family at her home in the Southeast area of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

"I was pushing for her to get her master's degree," her great grandmother said. "All my great grandchildren look up to her."

Richardson is black, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 135 pounds. She has brown, curly hair and hazel eyes, and was last seen wearing a dark shirt and blue jeans, police said. According to a flyer made by her family, Richardson has tattoos on her lower abdomen and behind her neck.

"Please pray for her," the great-grandmother cried. "She is my first great grandchild."

Police urged anyone with information on her whereabouts to call the LAPD's Missing Persons Unit at (213) 485-5381, or (877) LAPD-24-7 after business hours or on weekends.

Reporting Contributed by CBS 2 / KCAL

Photos: Mitrice Richardson Missing

September 25, 2009 - Mitrice Richardson Arrested, Released, then Disappeared: Are the Cops to Blame?