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Mitrice Richardson's parents, sheriff reach tentative agreement

The settlement, still not final, would give the dead woman's parents $900,000. The woman died after deputies released her from a remote station late at night and without resources.

August 24, 2011|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
  • Latice Sutton, left, mother of Mitrice Richardson, whose remains were found last summer, attends a news conference with her sister, Lauren Sutton. Richardson's photo is nearby.
Latice Sutton, left, mother of Mitrice Richardson, whose remains were… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

The parents of Mitrice Richardson have reached a tentative agreement to settle their lawsuits against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for $900,000, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.

The 24-year-old drew wide media attention when she went missing in 2009 after being released from the sheriff's remote Malibu/Lost Hills station around midnight without a car, phone or wallet. She had been jailed after being unable to pay an $89 dinner tab at a Malibu restaurant.

The search for Richardson ended almost a year later when her remains were spotted in a remote Malibu Canyon ravine.

Sheriff's deputies were already taking heat for releasing Richardson so late at night without her belongings, but the criticism only intensified after questions were raised about the handling of her remains.

After an autopsy, an official in the county coroner's office told The Times that deputies had removed Richardson's remains from the canyon without his permission, possibly violating the law and undermining the thoroughness of the coroner's inquiry.

Sheriff's officials said they had no choice because it was getting dark and animals might have destroyed the remains if they had not acted immediately.

Then in February, months after Richardson's skeleton was recovered, authorities found eight more bones in the area.

The grim discovery came just a few months after Richardson's mother said she found a finger bone during a visit at the site, during which she had intended to memorialize her daughter.

Recently, Richardson's remains were exhumed by coroner's officials from an Inglewood cemetery so that her complete skeleton could be reexamined.

The settlement amount is still tentative, sources said. If it goes through, the payout would be split between Richardson's parents.

Reached by phone Tuesday morning, Michael Richardson said he would continue to speak out against the Sheriff's Department's handling of his daughter's case.

"In my eyes, as the father, I didn't receive justice. My daughter's killer is still out there," he said.

Many who had rallied in support of the parents had expressed hope that a trial, and the evidence discovery that would come with it, would have shed new light on Richardson's final hours.

Richardson said he had been averse to settling for that reason, but said he left the decision to his attorney.

"I can't make a rational business decision because I'm personally involved," he said. "My thought was I'm like a surgeon trying to operate on myself."

Richardson's mother could not be reached Tuesday.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department would not comment until the settlement was final.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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