10 Months Into His Daughter's Disappearance, Michael Richardson Is Still Searching
Richardson Family to Host Leimert Park Fundraiser Sunday July 11 to Raise Money for a Private Investigator
A Los Angeles Sentinel Exclusive
By Jasmyne A. CannickSentinel Contributing Writer
It's been almost ten months since the mysterious disappearance of Cal State Fullerton graduate student Mitrice Richardson from the Malibu Lost Hills Sheriffs Department.
Mitrice, who turned 25-years-old on April 30, has been missing for now 294 days after being arrested for not paying an $89 dinner bill at Geoffrey's restaurant and having in her possession less than an ounce of personal use marijuana. Police investigators believe that Mitrice was suffering from a severe form of bipolar disorder after staff at Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu, said she was acting "crazy."
After being booked, she was allegedly released from the Malibu Lost Hills Sheriffs Department's custody at 12:30 a.m. on September 17, 2009 into the remote Calabasas area without her car, which had been impounded, cellphone or purse.
And that's where the trail goes dark.
Despite reporting sightings of her in both Malibu and South Los Angeles, and numerous searches in the steep terrain that surrounds the area, neither the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department nor the Los Angeles Police Department have turned up clues into Mitrice's disappearance. And today, it seems that only people actively searching for Mitrice are her family and friends.
However, none of this has dissuaded Mitrice's father Michael Richardson who continues to spend every waking moment looking for his only daughter.
"I'm happy they haven't found anything," explains Michael Richardson. "That says to me that she's out there alive waiting on her daddy to come and get her."
Michael Richardson, who at one time was working two full time jobs, but has since been reduced to one job after being fired for allegedly making his co-workers feel uncomfortable after a sudden mood change on the job when his daughter disappeared, is keeping hope alive.
"I have worked two full time jobs amounting to 80 to 90 hours per week for 17 years, explains Richardson. "Now that I am working just one job, I can use the extra time to focus on getting Mitrice home."
And focus is exactly what Michael Richardson has done. With the help from New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, on Sunday, July 11, the Richardsons will host a fundraiser in Leimert Park to raise money to hire critically acclaimed private investigator Lawrence Olmstead.
Licensed by the State of California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services under the name of Hollywood P.I., Lawrence Olmstead is an investigative veteran with 25 years of experience and a 97% success rate. He's the P.I. that was hired by Amber Dubois' grandmother. 14 year-old Amber Dubois was raped and murdered by John Gardner. Olmstead was also hired by Bill Cosby when his son Ennis was murdered in 1997 and also worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case.
"Since my daughter's disappearance I have exhausted my savings and reduced my method of living severely," confesses Richardson. "Some people want to believe Mitrice is dead because they want her to be but right about now I am thinking very differently."
To raise money to hire a private investigator the Richardsons have received donations from corporations and private donors to raffle off Sunday, July 11. Items include a 22" Flat Screen TV, personal autographed football jersey from New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce in a shadow box that reads to "your name" thank you for supporting www.bringmitricehome.org Antonio Pierce #58, a digital camera and more.
Despite pending civil litigation against the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, which Michael Richardson says is more about seeking justice for Mitrice than monetary gain by the family, Richardson says that he continues to be framed as an absentee father in his daughter's life who only resurfaced when she disappeared.
According to US law, in the absence of children, the next of kin title falls to the persons in question: parents, father, then mother. But despite being his daughter's next of kin, Richardson feels that many in the mainstream media look at him like an absentee father.
He said nothing could be further from the truth.
"I am my daughter's next of kin because I was there at her birth and my name is on her birth certificate," explains Richardson. "I was not an absentee father. I was in my daughter's life. Like every parent child relationship, we had our ups and downs but as an adult, Mitrice and I had become very close and talked and texted regularly."
He feels that Black fathers often get a bad wrap in the media.
"We're often painted as deadbeat dads who don't support their children," says Michael Richardson. "When Latice [Sutton], and I separated, I took her to court for visitation rights. I paid my child support on time until my daughter's 18th birthday. She spent summers with me and holidays. We were like any other family whose parents are separated.
"While I wasn't Cliff Huxtable, I was still in my daughter's life and even if I wasn't, I still don't understand what that has to do with my trying to find her today. All I want to do is find my daughter. After she's found alive she can tell you how she feels about her daddy. Why do I have to prove my relationship with my daughter for others to want to get involved and want to help me find my daughter? Do we do that to white parents?"
Michael Richardson explains that this Father's Day was especially hard on him.
"Two years ago on Father's Day, Mitrice came out to me," he tearfully explains. "She told me that she was a lesbian. She knew that no matter what I was always going to be there for her and that I didn't care about her sexual orientation. I was just happy that she felt comfortable and close enough to me to tell me this. That isn't always the case with Black parents."
As for the lawsuit, Mitrice's mother Latice Sutton has already filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit with her attorney Leo Terrell that will likely be tossed out on the technicality that she is not Mitrice's next of kin. By law, as Mitrice Richardson's next of kin, Michael Richardson has until August 2 to file lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and he is expected to do so. He has already filed a claim against the Sheriffs Department.
Despite a blind eye from the mainstream media, the Richard-son's continue to thank the Black media for their vigilance in helping to keep the word out there regarding Mitrice, including the Sentinel and Radio Free 102.3 FM's Dominique DiPrima of the "Front Page" and Adai Lamar and "FreeTalk." Michael Richardson will be on the Front Page Friday, July 9 to promote Sunday's event and give listeners an update on his daughter's case.
The Richardson's will host a fundraiser for Mitrice Richardson on Sunday, July 11 at 3 p.m.in Leimert Park on the corner of Crenshaw and Vernon. Lawerence Olmstead will be on hand to answer questions from the public regarding his services in helping to find Mitrice. Raffle tickets can bought online at www.bringmitricehome.org and are $5 each. Winners need not be present at raffle drawing to receive prize. All donations will go to the fund to secure a private investigator to find Mitrice Richardson.