Volunteer Althea Anderson, left, talks to a man who identified himself… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Breahna Dawson last saw Mitrice Richardson during a service at the Pomona church they both attend. Dawson remembers the young woman's warm greeting and bright smile. There wasn't much conversation, but she appeared happy and at peace, Dawson said.
In the six months that Richardson has been missing, Dawson and other members of New Direction Community Church have prayed daily for her safe return and spent many hours passing out fliers.
On Sunday, several church members joined a group of volunteers in skid row in downtown, part of an expanded search that included teams in Malibu, Calabasas, Santa Monica and Hollywood. They walked neighborhood streets asking passersby if they had seen Richardson. "We just hope that she's safe, we don't want to think anything more than that," said Rhonda Minter, another church volunteer. "We just hope that someone is watching over her."
Richardson, 24, a Cal State Fullerton graduate, vanished after being released from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station after midnight on Sept. 17, 2009. She had no car, no purse and no cellphone. She had been arrested at a Malibu restaurant for not paying a dinner bill and was reported by staff to have been acting strangely. Authorities have searched the rugged hills and canyons of Malibu several times without finding a trace of her.
Chip Croft, an independent video producer who helped to coordinate Sunday's event, said there have been several credible sightings of Richardson downtown. With numerous homeless shelters, single-room occupancy hotels and social service centers, skid row is a place where someone like Richardson, who is thought to have had no money and may have been suffering from emotional problems, might end up, Croft said.
"I've been chasing leads all over town," said Croft, who has also put up several videos on YouTube concerning Richardson. "We had a good lead down here in December, but it turned out not to be the right woman."
Even as he spoke, his cellphone rang with news from Hollywood of a woman reporting that someone who looks like Richardson was living in her apartment building. Richardson's aunt, Lauren Sutton, was sent to check out the tip.
Standing near the corner of 6th and San Pedro streets, Quincy Robertson said that after he saw a picture of Richardson on a flier at the Midnight Mission, he remembered seeing someone resembling her on nearby Gladys Avenue back in December. It is easy to spot someone who is new in the area, he said.
"Most of the time they look lost," Robertson said. "From her picture, she don't look like the type that's just going to walk away from what she's got. I hope and pray she finds her way back home."