Last week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris launched a criminal investigation into the sheriff’s department for the death of Mitrice Richardson, whose body was found 11 months after being released from an L.A. County jail in 2010. The decision came three months after Harris initially decided no such investigation was necessary. Representatives from the AG’s office declined to give a reason for the change.
“We cannot comment further on the specifics of this review, as it is ongoing,” a spokesperson told the Daily News via an emailed response to their inquiry.
Richardson disappeared in 2009, after L.A. County Sheriffs released her from custody in the wee hours of the morning on September 17. She had been dining at a restaurant in Malibu when staff there noticed she was acting erratically. Law enforcement was called after she refused to pay her bill.
She was arrested on “suspicion of not paying for the meal” and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, according to police reports at the time.
At the time of her detainment, her belongings including her phone, purse and money were inside of her car, which had been towed. The sheriffs detained her for a number of hours but eventually determined she was okay to be released. However, her mother, who had been contacted at the time, told the sheriffs that Richardson was suffering from a severe bipolar episode and asked if they could detain her until she was able to pick her up from the jail.
They initially agreed. However, the sheriffs later reported that Richardson refused and they had to let her go because she was an adult. She was released without money, identification or a cell phone.
The 24-year-old’s remains were found August 10, 2010 near Malibu Canyon. Detectives at the scene reportedly had removed the mummified body before forensics experts could perform an examination, against the coroner’s orders. Then L.A. County Sheriff, Lee Baca defended his team, saying that he believed they handled the case within the parameters of standard procedure. Both her parents filed wrongful death lawsuits against the department in 2011 and were awarded $450,000 each.
Recently, Baca and the department came under fire for engaging in various corrupt practices. Baca pleaded guilty to probing corruption and civil rights abuses. Department officials said they are fully cooperating with the investigation.