Mitrice Richardson Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Image Credit: Amy Wolfe/Find A Grave

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Disappeared: Lost in the Dark’ chronicles the mysterious disappearance and death of 24-year-old teen Mitrice Richardson in Malibu, California, in September 2009. Her body was found approximately a year later in Monte Nido, California. The episode takes the viewers through the various theories about Mitrice’s perplexing demise, yet the authorities have never provided any official explanation. If you wish to learn more about the case, here’s what we know.  

How Did Mitrice Richardson Die?

Mitrice Lavon Richardson was born on April 30, 1985, to Latice Sutton and Michael Richardson in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in Covina and the suburbs of east Los Angeles with her mother and stepfather and graduated from South Hills High School in West Covina, California. In 2008, Mitrice obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. She resided with her great-grandmother, Mildred, at 118th and Central in south Los Angeles and occasionally worked as a go-go dancer in an LGBT strip club in Long Beach on Friday nights.

Mitrice was a lesbian and had been dating Tessa Moon for approximately two years since 2007. Apart from her frequent dance gigs, she worked as an intern for a forensic psychologist and competed in a beauty pageant contest. On September 17, 2009, 24-year-old Mitrice parked her ’98 Civic in the parking lot of a restaurant called Geoffrey’s, situated below Point Dume in Malibu. The restaurant valet later alleged how weirdly Mitrice behaved that evening, muttering about avenging Michael Jackson’s death and inquiring about a girl named ‘Vanessa,’ while asking him to be wary of “a girl with tattooed arms.”

The valet had reportedly told the hostess to keep an eye on Mitrice, though she seemed harmless. According to local news reports, she ordered a Kobe steak and an Ocean Breeze cocktail while sitting alone at a table. However, Mitrice budged in the conversation of an adjacent table of seven, offering incomprehensible tidbits regarding astrological signs. When a restaurant chaffer checked in with the patrons, they assured them she was manageable yet bizarre. Mitrice kept on blabbering about visiting Hawaii and calling them on arrival.

When the diners departed, Mitrice headed toward the door, only to be intercepted by the manager regarding her overdue bill of $89. Initially, she claimed the group of seven had covered her tab and stared blankly when he insisted they had not. She unearthed her pockets to show them she had no money, dropping a marijuana joint. Hence, the manager called the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, stating, “We have a guest here who is refusing to pay her bill. She sounds really crazy…. She may be on drugs or something.”

The police arrived at the scene and contacted Mitrice’s great-grandmother, Mildred, with the former insisting she had no parents. They went through her cluttered car and did not find her wallet or cell phone. There, the police came across Mitrice’s driving license, besides scraps of marijuana and half-finished alcohol bottles. The restaurant employees considered paying off her bill so that she could get away with only a misdemeanor ticket for marijuana possession.

Nevertheless, the manager insisted on pressing charges, so Mitrice was taken to the Lost Hills station in a squad car, and her vehicle was impounded. Latice called the station and decided to let her daughter stay in jail overnight and bail her out in the morning. Little did she know that would be the last time she would ever hear from the 24-year-old again.

Who Killed Mitrice Richardson?

When Latice called the jailer at 5:35 AM the following day, she was informed her daughter was no more at the station. The officers would later testify they offered the 24-year-old to stay overnight or get her a ride, but she refused. Since Mitrice acted normally at the station and insisted on meeting her friends, the officers released her around 12:15 AM.

Mitrice was last seen alive by the former KTLA news anchor Bill Smith in the backyard of his Monte Nido apartment at around 6:30 AM on September 18, 2009. Four months into her disappearance, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department mounted a massive search for her with more than 300 trained volunteers in the Malibu Canyon area in January 2010. Mitrice’s family also conducted private searches for her in June 2010 near the Monte Nido area of Malibu Canyon. Unfortunately, none of the searches yielded any results.

Mitrice had been missing for about 11 months before her semi-decomposed, naked body was discovered by the rangers of the LA County Sheriff’s Department on August 9, 2010. The authorities found the corpse while staking out an alleged marijuana farm in the Dark Canyon near Calabasas. Mitrice’s parents claimed their daughter had severe bipolar disorder and, citing negligence, separately sued the LA County Sheriff’s Department. They were awarded $450,000 each in 2011.

Surprisingly, Mitrice’s partner, Tessa, maintained she suffered from no mental problems. On the family’s request, the California Attorney General’s office reviewed 500 pages of evidence and documents regarding the case in November 2015 and found no grounds for pressing charges against the LA County Sheriff’s Department. However, the office reversed its decision in January 2016 and launched a probe.

But the investigation concluded, and as there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges in December 2016, the inquiry was dropped. Mitrice’s death remains a mystery till now, though authorities claim there was no foul play.

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