May 18th, 2010
11:45 AM ET

Lawmaker asks for federal probe into missing woman


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/18/art.vert.find.mitrice.jpg
caption="A member of Congress has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson, who has been missing since September 17." width=292 height=320]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

A member of Congress has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances surrounding last year’s disappearance of a California woman.

Rep. Maxine Waters, a democrat from California, said in a letter she is “deeply concerned” about the decision by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to release Mitrice Richardson from custody following her arrest on September 16, 2009.

Richardson was accused of not paying for her $89 dinner at a Malibu restaurant. Sheriff’s deputies charged Richardson with defrauding an innkeeper and for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

At the restaurant, witnesses said Richardson was exhibiting strange behavior. Her family said the college graduate suffers from mental health issues.

Richardson was booked at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Malibu/Lost Hills station and discharged at approximately 1am on the morning of September 17, authorities said.

She walked out of the station and was never seen or heard from again.

In her letter to the Department of Justice, Rep. Waters wrote that she is “troubled by reports that question whether the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s station acted properly in releasing Mitrice Richardson during the predawn hours without money or transportation.”

“All while she was suffering from what the Los Angeles Police Department’s doctors have concluded to be bipolar disorder,” Rep. Waters said.

Richardson's family has long suspected that the sheriff’s department may have been involved in her disappearance.

In response, the sheriff’s department told CNN it welcomed Rep. Waters’ request for a federal investigation.

“The sheriff has long said that we have no objection to anybody looking at it,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Steve Whitmore. “This has been looked at by the county office of independent review, internal affairs…transparency is more than a buzz word to him (the sheriff).

Whitmore also said sheriff’s deputies had to let Richardson go on the night of September 17. If not, he said her civil rights could have been violated. “When they’re free to go, they are free to go,” he told CNN.

“The only focus we have is to find her. That is the only focus we have.”

Extensive searches for Richardson have been conducted since she vanished. The next search is scheduled for June 5 and 6.

Mitrice Richardson turned 25 on April 30.

For more information, visit FindMitrice.info.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Irving

    YO CLAUDIA FROM HOUSTON- Why is it that every bad thing that happens has to have someone to blame? Where was this womans family? And what would you say if the police held her all day, just because she didn't have a ride? That's illegal...right? You'd expect them to be sued for that, wouldn't? Perhaps you'd even level charges of racism? Or do you now expect the police to also be trained in psychiatry as well as the law? Here's a much simpler solution to the discussion: YOU BECOME A COP, AND SHOW THEM HOW A PERFECT PERSON DOES THE JOB!!!!

    May 18, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  2. Dawn

    The sheriff's dept. need to change their policy (if it is a policy). How could they let a woman, with no money, & no ride home to be released. They could have kept her until daylight & called someone for her. In the back of my mind, I wonder if Gardner could have something to do with her disappearance. Gardner hunted for women in that area & killed King & DuBois. They sheriffs made a big mistake in releasing this woman in the middle of the night. Really stupid.

    May 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    Reminds me of the case (mid-2000's) of the mentally disturbed white girl who was let loose from police custody into one of Chicago's highest-crime areas. Several hours later, she plunged - i.e., was thrown - from an apartment window and ended up pretty much a vegetable.

    In this case, on what basis does Richardson's family think that the cops are responsible for her disappearance? There's a big difference between that and simply releasing her, however negligent that may have been.

    May 18, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  4. Robert Stroney

    It's not uncommon for people who are bipolar to be suicidal especially if they have not had their medication.

    May 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    If she were a daughter of a sheriff or a celebrity, would they have let her go in the middle of the night without knowing she had a responsible way to get home, I don't think so. There is something entirely fishy about this girls disappearance and someone at the sheriff's department knows what happened.

    May 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm |